REFILE-Infant gut microbiome linked to early childhood development

Reuters Health Information: REFILE-Infant gut microbiome linked to early childhood development

REFILE-Infant gut microbiome linked to early childhood development

Last Updated: 2019-04-01

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By Anne Harding

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Gut microbiome composition in infancy is associated with developmental outcomes in preschool-aged children, new findings in JAMA Network Open show.

"Our study suggests a link between the types of microbes present in the infant's gut, which we collectively call 'the infant gut microbiome,' and neurocognitive skills at preschool age, including communication, social and fine motor skills," study co-first authors Dr. Joanne E. Sordillo of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Susan Korrick of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, both in Boston, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

"One of the most important features of our study was its prospective nature, meaning that we looked at the gut microbiome in infancy, and correlated it with the child's development much later on at preschool age," they added. "This gives us a bit more confidence that the microbes in the gut are contributing to child development."

The early life gut microbiome affects neurodevelopment in animal models, Sordillo, Korrick and coauthors note in their March 22 report, but the association hasn't been studied in humans.

They looked at 309 children whose development was assessed at age 3 with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, third edition (ASQ-3), as part of the Vitamin D Antenatal Asthma Reduction Trial (VDAART), and from whom stool samples were obtained at three to six months of age.

Study participants were 44% black, 13.3% Hispanic, 27.8% white and 14.9% other race/ethnicity, and 55% were boys.

Increased abundance of Lachnospiraceae and unclassified Clostridiales and decreased Bacteroides abundance were associated with lower ASQ-3 scores for communication and personal and social skills, the authors found. Bacteroides-dominant gut microbiomes were associated with lower fine motor scores.

"Our findings do not tell us whether the infant gut microbiome caused the modest changes in early child neurodevelopment that we observed. This means one key next step will be reproducing our findings in other studies using other populations, other settings, and other neurodevelopmental measures," Sordillo and Korrick said. "If the associations we found are observed consistently across a number of different studies that increases the likelihood that the associations may be causal."


JAMA Network Open 2019.

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