Early intestinal Bacteroides fragilis colonisation and development of asthma

BMC Pulm Med. 2008 Sep 26;8:19. doi: 10.1186/1471-2466-8-19.


Background: The 'hygiene hypothesis' suggests that early exposure to microbes can be protective against atopic disease. The intestinal microbial flora could operate as an important postnatal regulator of the Th1/Th2 balance. The aim of the study was to investigate the association between early intestinal colonisation and the development of asthma in the first 3 years of life.

Methods: In a prospective birth cohort, 117 children were classified according to the Asthma Predictive Index. A positive index included wheezing during the first three years of life combined with eczema in the child in the first years of life or with a parental history of asthma. A faecal sample was taken at the age of 3 weeks and cultured on selective media.

Results: Asthma Predictive Index was positive in 26/117 (22%) of the children. The prevalence of colonisation with Bacteroides fragilis was higher at 3 weeks in index+ compared to index- children (64% vs. 34% p < 0,05). Bacteroides fragilis and Total Anaerobes counts at 3 weeks were significantly higher in children with a positive index as compared with those without. After adjusting for confounders a positive association was found between Bacteroides fragilis colonisation and Asthma Predictive Index (odds ratio: 4,4; confidence interval: 1,7 - 11,8).

Conclusion: Bacteroides fragilis colonisation at age 3 weeks is an early indicator of possible asthma later in life. This study could provide the means for more accurate targeting of treatment and prevention and thus more effective and better controlled modulation of the microbial milieu.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Bacteroides fragilis / pathogenicity*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Th1 Cells
  • Th2 Cells