Over 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. The reason so many people suffer from asthma cannot be pinned down, for it depends on environment as much as biology. However, scientists may have uncovered a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to preventing asthma at an early age.
In a study published by Science Transitional Medicine, researchers have narrowed down four bacteria that may contribute to a healthy respiratory system later in life. In a sample size of 319 babies, their stool was tested for four particular bacteria. In 22 of the babies, they displayed wheezing and signs of allergies. Their stool showed abnormally low levels of the four bacteria. After the children turned a year old, their bacteria levels appeared to level out, but it may have been too late.
The children in the study were turning five years old when the study was released, and 8 of the 22 at risk children had been diagnosed with lung diseases. This is the difference between knowing for certain that the set of four bacteria prevents asthma and simply making a correlation between the bacteria and asthma prevention.
However, the researchers are hopeful these findings will result in new treatments. During the study, mice were given an agent that causes inflammation of the respiratory system, and then treated with the bacteria commonly found in babies’ stomachs. Newborn mice, after receiving the treatment of bacteria, displayed a much healthier respiratory system than their untreated counterparts.
This shows that there is a possibility the treatment would also work on humans, but more testing needs to be done. The onset of asthma usually takes years, and even with five years of studies looking at developing human respiratory systems, there has not been enough time to know what effect the bacteria has in the long term.