Establishment of the intestinal microbiota and its role for atopic dermatitis in early childhood

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Sep;132(3):601-607.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2013.05.043. Epub 2013 Jul 27.


Background: Perturbations in the intestinal microbiota may disrupt mechanisms involved in the development of immunologic tolerance. The present study aimed to examine the establishment of the infant microbiota and its association to the development of atopic dermatitis (AD).

Methods: Within a randomized, placebo-controlled trial on the prevention of AD by oral supplementation of a bacterial lysate between week 5 and the end of month 7, feces was collected at the ages of 5 weeks (n = 571), 13 weeks (n = 332), and 31 weeks (n = 499) and subjected to quantitative PCRs to detect bifidobacteria, bacteroides, lactobacilli, Escherichia coli, Clostridium difficile, and Clostridium cluster I.

Results: Birth mode, breast-feeding but also birth order had a strong effect on the microbiota composition. With increasing number of older siblings the colonization rates at age 5 weeks of lactobacilli (P < .001) and bacteroides (P = .02) increased, whereas rates of clostridia decreased (P < .001). Colonization with clostridia, at the age of 5 and 13 weeks was also associated with an increased risk of developing AD in the subsequent 6 months of life (odds ratioadjusted = 2.35; 95% CI, 1.36-3.94 and 2.51; 1.30-4.86, respectively). Mediation analyses demonstrated that there was a statistically significant indirect effect via Clostridium cluster I colonization for both birth mode and birth order in association to AD.

Conclusion: The results of this study are supportive for a role of the microbiota in the development of AD. Moreover, the "beneficial" influence of older siblings on the microbiota composition suggests that this microbiota may be one of the biological mechanisms underlying the sibling effect.

Keywords: AD; Atopic dermatitis; C-section; CFU; Cesarean section; Colony-forming units; GI; Gastrointestinal; Microbiota; OR; Odds ratio; atopic dermatitis; birth mode; mediation analysis; siblings.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bacterial Load
  • Birth Order
  • Breast Feeding
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / microbiology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / prevention & control
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Primary Prevention


  • DNA, Bacterial

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN60475069