Intestinal inflammation was significantly lower in infants that were fed the bacteria B. infantis along with breast milk than in infants that were solely breastfed, a study shows.
These findings suggest that adding the bacteria to a baby’s diet may prevent bowel inflammation at this critical developmental phase.
The study, titled “Colonization by B. infantis EVC001 modulates enteric inflammation in exclusively breastfed infants,” was published in the journal Pediatric Research.
Research has shown that early gut dysbiosis (imbalance of bacterial species in the gut) in infants induces enteric (gut) inflammation, as exhibited by the increased expression of inflammatory proteins. This phenomenon has been linked to the development of several conditions later in life, namely inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Importantly, numerous reports in animal models and children have connected health outcomes to specific gut microbes and demonstrated how different microbial populations may influence immunity development.
In fact, disruption of the early gut microbiome composition, exposure to antibiotics, and an abundance of Proteobacteria (a type of bacteria) in early life is linked to immune dysregulation later on in life.
On the other hand, the abundance of Bifidobacterium infantis (B. infantis), has been shown to be negatively correlated with Proteobacteria but associated with positive health outcomes.
While several publications have revealed the evolution of B. infantis as the predominant strain that colonizes the microbiome of breastfed infants due to its unique ability to consume human milk sugars, recent research has shown that B. infantis is far less abundant in infants that are born in industrialized nations compared to those born in developing countries.
“Historical evidence suggests this organism has been lost over the past century, and its absence is associated with an increased abundance of Proteobacteria, a hallmark of dysbiosis,” the researchers wrote.
Therefore, they investigated the impact of B. infantis EVC001 colonization on enteric inflammation in a subset of exclusively breastfed infants from a larger clinical study (NCT02457338).
In the trial, a total of 120 children were randomly selected to receive supplementation with B. infantis EVC001 daily in addition to breast milk for 21 days (EVC001) or breast milk alone (controls), starting at day 7 after birth.
The researchers collected stool samples from randomly selected infants who were fed the bacteria (20 participants) and control infants (20). The fecal microbiome was analyzed at day 6 (baseline), and at days 40 and 60 post-birth.
Results indicated that the concentration of fecal calprotectin, a marker for gut inflammation, negatively correlated with B. infantis abundance, meaning that infants who had less B.infantis had more of this biomarker.
Additionally, proinflammatory cytokines (molecules that induce inflammation) were also negatively correlated with B. infantis abundance.
In fact, pro-inflammatory cytokines levels were reduced by 98% in EVC001-fed infants at days 40 and 60 compared with baseline and with control infants.
“Our findings indicate that gut dysbiosis (absence of B. infantis) is associated with increased intestinal inflammation. Early addition of EVC001 to diet represents a novel strategy to prevent enteric inflammation during a critical developmental phase,” the authors wrote.
“As we increasingly look to the gut microbiome to solve major health issues, it’s important that we identify the specific abilities of bacterial strains (i.e. probiotics) when using objective markers of clinical outcomes in studies which demonstrate the capacity of these bacteria to resolve well-defined clinical problems as a result of their administration to the host,” said Dr. Benjamin Gold, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Center for Digestive Healthcare, said in a press release.
“This well-designed and rigorously conducted study shows that B. infantis EVC001 has unique properties in terms of its ability not only to lower important markers of inflammation levels, but also to colonize the infant gut so that clinical benefits may be seen both in the short and longer-term basis,” he added.
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