Allergies linked to a baby’s birthplace and how they’re born

The study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has found that children born by caesarian section in hospital have more C. difficile in their gut, which may be contributing the to increase in allergies in children. In a study of 2700 followed from birth until seven years, the researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands tested faecal samples from infants to find out what types of bacteria their guts were hosting. As they got older, the parents were asked to report on wheeze, asthma medication and eczema. The researchers also tested the blood of the children to determine whether they were at risk of allergies to pets.

What they found was that 43% of children born in hospital by Caesarian section had C. difficile in their guts, compared with 27% of those born vaginally in hospital, and 19% of those born at home. Babies born vaginally get their first gut-colonising bacteria from their mothers’ birth canals and other direct contacts, whereas babies born in hospital by c-section get their fist gut-colonising bacteria from the skins of doctors, nurses or other places in the delivery room.

The children who tested positively for C. difficile were twice as likely to have asthma by six or seven and twice as likely to have sensitivity to food or eczema. Lead author John Penders says that this study does not prove that certain gut bacteria cause a propensity to allergies, but it does fit with the hygiene hypothesis that says that allergies are on the rise because they’re too clean. However they do warn that people must not be alarmed, as there are many different factors that play a part in the development of allergies and asthma. This study is a first step, and this study only concentrated on a few microbiota among thousands of different species.

Source: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

First Published in September 2011

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