By James Gamble
Combinations of bacteria commonly found in daycare facilities could be responsible for the early development of asthma in young children, suggests a new study.
European scientists assessing samples of dust found in more than a hundred French daycare centers found certain dominant combinations of bacteria were linked with an increased risk of wheezing – an early sign of asthma.
The worrying research suggests which daycare our children go to could have lasting effects on their respiratory health.
However, the researchers say their work offers some advisory measures to lower the risk of respiratory disease in young children.
The study, presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan, northern Italy, explored common bacteria found living in daycare centers across the French capital of Paris.
The researchers, from the Paris-based French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, known as Inserm, used an adapted vacuum cleaner to collect samples of dust from the floors of 103 daycare settings across the Paris region.
They then used genetic analysis to identify the different types of bacteria found in each setting.
The Inserm team, led by researcher Dr. Annabelle Bédard, simultaneously asked the parents of 515 children attending the daycare facilities – with an average age of two – whether their children had experienced any respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing.
On the aims of the project, Dr. Bédard explained: “We find mixtures of different bacteria and other microbes living everywhere – outside, inside our homes, on our skin and even inside our bodies.
“These communities of bacteria, known as microbiota, can have beneficial or harmful effects on our health.
“Young children will come into contact with the bacteria living in daycare centers via their skin and mouths and by breathing them in.
“So, we might expect this exposure to have an impact on children’s developing lungs via the different microbiota that arises in children’s airway, gut or skin.”
Based on their bacteria samples, the researchers were able to group mixtures of microbiota from the daycare settings into four categories.
One of these categories, in which two different bacteria called Streptococcus and Lactococcus were dominant, was linked with an increase in the risk of wheezing when compared with the more common category – a mixture of Streptococcus, Neisseria and Haemophilus bacteria.
“In children under three years old, wheezing is considered to be an early sign of asthma,” Dr Bédard said.
“Our research suggests that there are differences in the risk of recurrent wheezing depending on mixtures of bacteria in the daycare setting.
“We now need to understand what factors influence this bacterial community, for example how the rooms are cleaned and ventilated, and indoor air quality.
“This, along with future findings from other studies, could help understand how to improve conditions and inform public health strategies for preventing chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma in children.”
Dr. Bédard and her colleagues plan to explore these influential factors and how they influence dust microbiota and children’s respiratory health, and will also continue to follow the children attending daycare to see if they develop asthma later in their childhood.
Professor Angela Zacharasiewicz, chair of the European Respiratory Society group on pediatric asthma and allergy, added there was still plenty of work to be done to fully understand microbiota communities and how they can affect our health.
Prof. Zacharasiewicz, who was not involved in the research, said: “There are bacteria and other microbes living all around us and we are starting to understand that they can have positive and negative effects on our respiratory health.
“We still have a great deal to learn about these complex communities and how our bodies respond to them.
“This study suggests a link between the respiratory health of young children and the mixture of bacteria in their daycare facilities.
“Hopefully, understanding more about these interactions will help us create the healthiest environments for our young children to grow and thrive.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker