Eczema is a common disorder characterised by chronic inflammation of the skin. It commonly starts during infancy and can persist into adulthood.

Infants with eczema are typically at high risk of developing allergic conditions including asthma and hay fever. There are a number of treatments for eczema, one of the more recent being the administration of probiotics.

A person’s gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract, plays an important role in regulating a person’s immune system and immune response and therefore has been thought to affect the development of allergic diseases.

Probiotics that are often recommended to improved digestive health. Some research has shown that the infants with eczema have reduced gut microbiota diversity when compared to their peers without the condition. Furthermore, the levels of bacterial strains appear to differ in infants with and without eczema.

To uncover which bacterial strains may be associated with eczema, researchers studied the pattern of gut bacteria in infants with and without eczema.

The study looked at the association between the microbiome and risk of eczema among infants.

Infants from a hospital in Shanghai made up the study population. The group were divided in cases and controls – the cases being 51 infants who had developed eczema within their first year of life and the control being 50 healthy infants who hadn’t. Stool samples were collected from the infants at 12 – 13 months of age, with DNA being extracted from the stool.

The results found that the number of bacteria, rather than the composition, differed between the infants with and without eczema. B. bifidum and B. longum, two species that have previously been linked to reduced risk of eczema, were found to be enriched in healthy infants.

Implications

The results of this study show the complex ways in which our gut microbiota can interact with aspects of our health. Identifying the bacteria more common in infants with eczema may allow for more targeted treatment of eczema in infants and also perhaps the opportunity for early testing after birth and prevention before eczema has fully developed.

Last Reviewed: 01/12/2019

Norman Swan Medical Communications



References

Zheng, H et al. Altered Gut Microbiota Composition Associated with Eczema in Infants. PLos ONE 11(11): e0166026. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166026.