Researchers Identify Profound Alterations to the Infant Gut

March 7, 2018

New Data Point to Loss of Critical Bacteria in the Infant Gut, Leading to Possible Link to Colic, Eczema, Allergies, Diabetes and Obesity

Washington, DC - March 7, 2018 - New research has connected elevated infant fecal pH levels to a profound change in the infant gut microbiome, including the disappearance of a beneficial bacterium that may be key to short and long-term health. Over the past 100 years, the average pH level of a baby’s stool, which can indicate the type of bacteria in the baby’s gut, has undergone an alarming increase from pH 5.0 to 6.5. The study, published in the American Society for Microbiology journal mSphere, connects this rise in pH to a generational loss of Bifidobacterium, a critical gut bacteria during infancy, and an accompanying increase in a number of harmful bacteria.

Stark rise in infant fecal pH from 1926-2017 tied to disruption of infant gut microbes

A review of 14 clinical studies published between 1926 and 2017, representing hundreds of healthy breastfed infants, showed a change in fecal pH from 5.0 to 6.5 over this time period. The authors attribute this trend to an observed reduction of Bifidobacterium in the infant gut, along with an increase in potentially harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Clostridia, resulting in “dysbiosis”, a potentially detrimental imbalance of the gut microbial ecosystem.

According to study co-author, Dr. Jennifer Smilowitz, Associate Director of the Human Studies Research Program for the Foods for Health Institute at UC Davis, “These alarming changes to the infant gut microbiome and thus, gut environment, may be due to modern medical practices like antibiotics, C-sections, and formula feeding. These are all potentially life-saving medical practices, but have unintended consequences on the infant gut microbiome. As a result, certain pathogenic bacteria—those linked to higher risk of health issues such as colic, eczema, allergies, diabetes and obesity thrive. The need for clinicians to have a quick and reliable method to determine Bifidobacterium levels in baby’s gut, and an effective way to replace the right Bifidobacterium to correct dysbiosis when detected, are the critical next steps for infant health.”

Restoring the infant gut to its natural state

In December 2017, results of a landmark clinical trial were published in mSphere, showing that the baby probiotic Evivo®, an activated form of B. infantis, produced rapid, substantial, and persistent improvements in the gut microbiome of breastfed infants. “This steady increase in the fecal pH of infants over the past several generations has largely gone unnoticed by the medical community, but looks to be an indication of a major disruption of the infant gut,” said David Kyle, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Executive Chairman at Evolve BioSystems, Inc. “This may be a significant contributor to the incidence of allergic and autoimmune disorders. We are making progress in learning how to detect infant gut dysbiosis and restore the gut to its natural state through the introduction of very specific probiotics.”

Evolve BioSystems, Inc. is a privately-held spin-out from the Foods for Health Institute (FFHI) at the University of California, Davis and builds on more than a decade of research into understanding the unique partnership of the infant gut microbiome and breast milk components.

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The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of more than 30,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.

Author: ASM Communications

ASM Communications
ASM Communications staff.