A new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has found that babies with older siblings develop their gut microbiome at a faster rate than other babies, and that this protects them from allergic disease. The study, which was conducted by researchers at Deakin University, Barwon Health, and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, looked at data from over 1,000 infants.
The team collected samples of faeces over the course of infancy from more than 1000 infants and then tested whether the children were allergic to five different foods at one year of age. The samples were analysed to measure the baby’s gut bacteria, comparing whether having siblings and owning dogs impacted how fast the baby’s gut microbiome matured; and then whether a more mature microbiome impacted the risk of developing food allergy.
The researchers found that babies with older siblings had a more mature gut microbiome by one year of age and that a more mature gut microbiome is associated with a reduced risk of allergies.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Yuan Gao, said that the findings are “an important breakthrough” and that they “provide new insights into the causes of food allergies.”
Dr. Gao said that the next step is to develop interventions that can help to promote the development of a healthy gut microbiome in infants. This could help to reduce the risk of allergies in children.
Reference: Gao, Yuan et al. 2023. Gut microbiota maturity mediates the protective effect of siblings on food allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2023.02.034
Additional reporting can be found on the Deakin University website.