Presence of Yeast in Infants' Guts Increases Risk of Asthma

February 20th 2017

Association found between asthma and yeast.

A certain type of yeast located in the microbiomes of infants is associated with an increased risk of developing asthma, according to a study.

In prior research, investigators identified 4 gut bacteria in Canadian children, which appeared to prevent asthma if present in the first 100 days of life. During a follow-up study, the investigators repeated the experiment using fecal samples and health information obtained from 100 children located in a rural village in Ecuador.

The results of the study showed that although the gut bacteria played a role in asthma prevention in Ecuador, the presence of the microscopic yeast Pichia was found to be strongly linked to asthma. Instead of helping to prevent asthma, its presence actually put children more at risk.

“This is the first time anyone has shown any kind of association between yeast and asthma,” said investigator Brett Finlay.

Finlay hypothesized the potential link between the risk of asthma and the cleanliness of the environment for children in Ecuador. As a part of the study, the investigators reported whether children had access to clean water.

“Those that had access to good, clean water had much higher asthma rates and we think it is because they were deprived of the beneficial microbes,” Finlay said. “That was a surprise because we tend to think that clean is good but we realize that we actually need some dirt in the world to help protect you.”

According to the study, both Canada and Ecuador have high rates of asthma: approximately 10% of the population has the disease.

Because technology was not as advanced when the investigators conducted their initial study, they plan to reexamine the Canadian samples to look for the presence of yeast in the infants’ gastrointestinal tracts.

The findings were presented at the 2017 annual meeting for Association for the Advancement of Science.

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