Research Shows Link between Gut Bacteria and Allergies
As someone who suffers from allergies myself, this latest research regarding gut health and allergies caught my eye. Essentially a direct link has been discovered between specific gut bacteria and dairy allergies. The study is not with humans (yet) – but it strongly indicates a link and might result in a solution that prevents or to treats allergies in the future. That would be pretty exciting stuff.
How Big Is The Allergy Issue?
Allergies are already huge and the number of sufferers are on the increase. These statistics can be found on the Allergy UK website; the full report can be downloaded here:
A few of the facts are below:
- The World Allergy Organisation (WAO) estimate of allergy prevalence of the whole population by country ranges between 10 – 40% (Pawankar R, et al, 2013)
- More than 150 million Europeans suffer from chronic allergic diseases and the current prediction is that by 2025 half of the entire EU population will be affected (EAACI, 2016)
- Allergy is the most common chronic disease in Europe. Up to 20% of patients with allergies live with a severe debilitating form of their condition, and struggle daily with the fear of a possible asthma attack, anaphylactic shock, or even death from an allergic reaction (EAACI, 2016)
- The UK has some of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world, with over 20% of the population affected by one or more allergic disorder. (M. L. Levy, 2004)
- A staggering 44% of British adults now suffer from at least one allergy and the number of sufferers is on the rise, growing by around 2 million between 2008 and 2009 alone. Almost half (48%) of sufferers have more than one allergy (Mintel, 2010)
- In the 20 years to 2012 there was a 615% increase in the rate of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK (Turner, Paul J., et al, 2015)
- In the UK, allergic diseases across all ages costs the NHS an estimated £900 million a year, mostly through prescribed treatments in primary care, representing 10% of the GP prescribing budget. (Venter, 2009)
This last statistic is astounding – imagine saving the NHS almost £1bn by preventing or treating allergies. This underlines why this research is so very compelling.
The Latest Research Study
The latest study was released a few weeks ago by a team from the University of Chicago led by Immunologist Cathryn Nagler. The scientists discovered that gut microbes from healthy human baby donors transplanted into mice protected animals exposed to milk from experiencing allergic reactions, while gut microbes transplanted from infants allergic to milk did not.
Previous research had shown the the gut bacteria of healthy babies was different to that of babies with a dairy intolerance. Also, it identified that some gut microbes are associated with a lower risk of developing food allergy; this led the researchers to examine whether gut microbes of babies without milk allergy might be providing some kind of protection.
Further experiments identified one microbe, Anaerostipes caccae, that prevented the development of milk allergy when transplanted alone into groups of mice. This is the really exciting bit! When the researchers then sampled cells along the mice’s gut linings they found different genes in the allergic / no allergic hosts which suggests that microbes living in the gut had some impact the host’s immune system.
So, the findings were that gut bacteria are critical in regulating allergic responses to food. The details of the research can be found here.
This latest research follows other research by the same team released a few years ago. As long ago as 2004 Nagler and her colleagues reported that wiping out gut bacteria in mice led to food allergies.
A study 10 years later looked at mice and peanut allergies. Mice who were given antibiotics early in life were far more likely to be intolerant to peanuts, a model of human peanut allergy. After introducing a solution containing Clostridia (a common class of bacteria that’s naturally found in the mammalian gut) into the rodents’ mouths and stomachs, the animals’ peanut sensitivity disappeared. Further analysis revealed that the Clostridia was actively impacting the mouse gut, helping keep the peanut proteins that can cause allergic reactions out of the bloodstream.
This is amazing research. We have an opportunity to break out of the allergy nightmare than many people face. We can’t wait to see what comes next from Cathryn Nagler and the team at Chicago University as it could have a fundamental impact on the health of many.