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1.  Infant gut microbiota and the hygiene hypothesis of allergic disease: impact of household pets and siblings on microbiota composition and diversity 
Multiple studies have demonstrated that early-life exposure to pets or siblings affords protection against allergic disease; these associations are commonly attributed to the “hygiene hypothesis”. Recently, low diversity of the infant gut microbiota has also been linked to allergic disease. In this study, we characterize the infant gut microbiota in relation to pets and siblings.
The study population comprised a small sub-sample of 24 healthy, full term infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort. Mothers reported on household pets and siblings. Fecal samples were collected at 4 months of age, and microbiota composition was characterized by high-throughput signature gene sequencing.
Microbiota richness and diversity tended to be increased in infants living with pets, whereas these measures were decreased in infants with older siblings. Infants living with pets exhibited under-representation of Bifidobacteriaceae and over-representation of Peptostreptococcaceae; infants with older siblings exhibited under-representation of Peptostreptococcaceae.
This study provides new evidence that exposure to pets and siblings may influence the early development of the gut microbiota, with potential implications for allergic disease. These two traditionally protective “hygiene hypothesis” factors appear to differentially impact gut microbiota composition and diversity, calling into question the clinical significance of these measures. Further research is required to confirm and expand these findings.
PMCID: PMC3655107  PMID: 23607879
Infants; Gut microbiota; Gut microbiome; Hygiene hypothesis; Microflora hypothesis; Pets; Siblings; Atopy; Allergic disease; Environmental exposures
2.  Perinatal Pet Exposure, Faecal Microbiota, and Wheezy Bronchitis: Is There a Connection? 
ISRN Allergy  2013;2013:827934.
Background. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that high hygiene standards have led to an immune dysfunction and an increase in allergic diseases. Farming-related exposures are associated with a decreased risk of asthma. Since the gut microbiota may be a pivotal component in the hygiene hypothesis, we studied whether perinatal exposure to pets, doctor's diagnosed wheezy bronchitis (WB), and compositional changes in the gut microbiota are interrelated among urban infants. Methods. Data were collected prospectively from a mother-infant nutrition study. Data on perinatal pet ownership, WB, and the microbiota composition of faecal samples of the infants assessed by quantitative PCR at 1 month were compared. Results. None of the 30 infants exposed to pets had suffered from WB by 24 months, whereas 15 of the 99 (15%) nonexposed infants had had WB (P = 0.03). The counts of Bifidobacterium longum were higher in samples (n = 17) from nonwheezing infants with pet exposure compared to those (n = 10) in wheezing infants without pet exposure (8.59/10.44 versus 5.94/9.86, resp. (median/upper limit of range, bacteria(log)/g of stool); P = 0.02). B. breve was more abundant in the wheezing infants (P = 0.02).
PMCID: PMC3658390  PMID: 23724248
3.  Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of neonatal intestinal microbiota in relation to the development of asthma 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:68.
The extended 'hygiene hypothesis' suggests that the initial composition of the infant gut microbiota is a key determinant in the development of atopic disease. Several studies have demonstrated that the microbiota of allergic and non-allergic infants are different even before the development of symptoms, with a critical time window during the first 6 months of life. 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 using DGGE (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis).
In a prospective birth cohort, 110 children were classified according to the API (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 fecal sample was taken at the age of 3 weeks and analysed with DGGE using universal and genus specific primers.
The Asthma Predictive Index was positive in 24/110 (22%) of the children. Using universal V3 primers a band corresponding to a Clostridum coccoides XIVa species was significantly associated with a positive API. A Bacteroides fragilis subgroup band was also significantly associated with a positive API. A final DGGE model, including both bands, allowed correct classification of 73% (80/110) of the cases.
Fecal colonisation at age 3 weeks with either a Bacteroides fragilis subgroup or a Clostridium coccoides subcluster XIVa species is an early indicator of possible asthma later in life. These findings need to be confirmed in a new longitudinal follow-up study.
PMCID: PMC3079593  PMID: 21477358
DGGE; infant; intestinal microbiota; asthma
4.  Development of Allergic Airway Disease in Mice following Antibiotic Therapy and Fungal Microbiota Increase: Role of Host Genetics, Antigen, and Interleukin-13  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(1):30-38.
Lending support to the hygiene hypothesis, epidemiological studies have demonstrated that allergic disease correlates with widespread use of antibiotics and alterations in fecal microbiota (“microflora”). Antibiotics also lead to overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans, which can secrete potent prostaglandin-like immune response modulators, from the microbiota. We have recently developed a mouse model of antibiotic-induced gastrointestinal microbiota disruption that is characterized by stable increases in levels of gastrointestinal enteric bacteria and Candida. Using this model, we have previously demonstrated that microbiota disruption can drive the development of a CD4 T-cell-mediated airway allergic response to mold spore challenge in immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice without previous systemic antigen priming. The studies presented here address important questions concerning the universality of the model. To investigate the role of host genetics, we tested BALB/c mice. As with C57BL/6 mice, microbiota disruption promoted the development of an allergic response in the lungs of BALB/c mice upon subsequent challenge with mold spores. In addition, this allergic response required interleukin-13 (IL-13) (the response was absent in IL-13−/− mice). To investigate the role of antigen, we subjected mice with disrupted microbiota to intranasal challenge with ovalbumin (OVA). In the absence of systemic priming, only mice with altered microbiota developed airway allergic responses to OVA. The studies presented here demonstrate that the effects of microbiota disruption are largely independent of host genetics and the nature of the antigen and that IL-13 is required for the airway allergic response that follows microbiota disruption.
PMCID: PMC538952  PMID: 15618138
5.  Early Colonization with a Group of Lactobacilli Decreases the Risk for Allergy at Five Years of Age Despite Allergic Heredity 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23031.
Microbial deprivation early in life can potentially influence immune mediated disease development such as allergy. The aims of this study were to investigate the influence of parental allergy on the infant gut colonization and associations between infant gut microbiota and allergic disease at five years of age.
Methods and Findings
Fecal samples were collected from 58 infants, with allergic or non-allergic parents respectively, at one and two weeks as well as at one, two and twelve months of life. DNA was extracted from the fecal samples and Real time PCR, using species-specific primers, was used for detection of Bifidobacterium (B.) adolescentis, B. breve, B. bifidum, Clostridium (C.) difficile, a group of Lactobacilli (Lactobacillus (L.) casei, L. paracasei and L. rhamnosus) as well as Staphylococcus (S.) aureus. Infants with non-allergic parents were more frequently colonized by Lactobacilli compared to infants with allergic parents (p = 0.014). However, non-allergic five-year olds acquired Lactobacilli more frequently during their first weeks of life, than their allergic counterparts, irrespectively of parental allergy (p = 0.009, p = 0.028). Further the non-allergic children were colonized with Lactobacilli on more occasions during the first two months of life (p = 0.038). Also, significantly more non-allergic children were colonized with B. bifidum at one week of age than the children allergic at five years (p = 0.048).
In this study we show that heredity for allergy has an impact on the gut microbiota in infants but also that early Lactobacilli (L. casei, L. paracasei, L. rhamnosus) colonization seems to decrease the risk for allergy at five years of age despite allergic heredity.
PMCID: PMC3148229  PMID: 21829685
6.  The endocannabinoid system links gut microbiota to adipogenesis 
We investigated several models of gut microbiota modulation: selective (prebiotics, probiotics, high-fat), drastic (antibiotics, germ-free mice) and mice bearing specific mutations of a key gene involved in the toll-like receptors (TLR) bacteria-host interaction (Myd88−/−). Here we report that gut microbiota modulates the intestinal endocannabinoid (eCB) system-tone, which in turn regulates gut permeability and plasma lipopolysaccharide (LPS) levels.The activation of the intestinal endocannabinoid system increases gut permeability which in turn enhances plasma LPS levels and inflammation in physiological and pathological conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.The investigation of adipocyte differentiation and lipogenesis (both markers of adipogenesis) indicate that gut microbiota controls adipose tissue physiology through LPS-eCB system regulatory loops and may play a critical role in the adipose tissue plasticity during obesity.In vivo, ex vivo and in vitro studies indicate that LPS acts as a master switch on adipose tissue metabolism, by blocking the cannabinoid-driven adipogenesis.
Obesity and type II diabetes have reached epidemic proportions and are associated with a massive expansion of the adipose tissue. Recent data have shown that these metabolic disorders are characterised by low-grade inflammation of unknown molecular origin (Hotamisligil and Erbay, 2008; Shoelson and Goldfine, 2009); therefore, it is of the utmost importance to identify the link between inflammation and adipose tissue metabolism and plasticity. Among the latest important discoveries published in the field, two new concepts have driven this study. First, emerging data have shown that gut microbiota is involved in the control of energy homeostasis (Ley et al, 2005; Turnbaugh et al, 2006; Claus et al, 2008) Obesity is characterised by the massive expansion of adipose tissues and is associated with inflammation (Weisberg et al, 2003). It is possible that both this expansion and the associated inflammation are controlled by microbiota and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) (Cani et al, 2007a, 2008), a cell wall component of Gram-negative bacteria that is among the most potent inducers of inflammation (Cani et al, 2007a, 2007b, 2008; Cani and Delzenne, 2009). Second, obesity is also characterised by greater endocannabinoid (eCB) system tone (increased eCB plasma levels, altered expression of the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1 mRNA) and increased eCB levels in the adipose tissue) (Engeli et al, 2005; Bluher et al, 2006; Matias et al, 2006; Cote et al, 2007; D'Eon et al, 2008; Starowicz et al, 2008; Di Marzo et al, 2009; Izzo et al, 2009).
Several studies have suggested a close relationship between LPS, gut microbiota and the eCB system. Indeed, LPS controls the synthesis of eCB in macrophages, whereas macrophage infiltration in the adipose tissue occurring during obesity is an important factor in the development of the metabolic disorders (Weisberg et al, 2003). We have shown that macrophage infiltration is not only dependent on the activation of the receptor CD14 by LPS, but is also dependent on the gut microbiota composition and the gut barrier function (gut permeability) (Cani et al, 2007a, 2008). Moreover, LPS controls the synthesis of eCBs both in vivo (Hoareau et al, 2009) and in vitro (Di Marzo et al, 1999; Maccarrone et al, 2001) through mechanisms dependent of the LPS receptor signalling pathway (Liu et al, 2003). Thus, obesity is nowadays associated with changes in gut microbiota and a higher endocannabinoid system tone, both having a function in the disease's pathophysiology.
Given that the convergent molecular mechanisms that may affect these different supersystem activities and adiposity remain to be elucidated, we tested the hypothesis that the gut microbiota and the eCB system control gut permeability and adipogenesis, by a LPS-dependent mechanism, under both physiological and obesity-related conditions.
First, we found that high-fat diet-induced obese and diabetic animals exhibit threefold higher colonic CB1 mRNA, whereas no modification was observed in the small intestinal segment (jejunum). Moreover, selective modulation of gut microbiota using prebiotics (i.e. non-digestible compounds fermented by specific bacteria in the gut) (Gibson and Roberfroid, 1995) reduces by about one half this effect. Similarly, in genetically obese mice (ob/ob), prebiotic treatment decreases colonic CB1 mRNA and colonic eCB concentrations (AEA) (Figure 2A). In addition, we have observed a modulation of FAAH and MGL mRNA (Figure 2A). Furthermore, we have found that antibiotic treatment decreasing the number of gut bacteria content was associated with a strong reduction of the CB1 receptor levels in the colon of healthy mice.
Second, we show that the endocannabinoid system controls gut barrier function (in vivo and in vitro) and endotoxaemia. More precisely, we designed two in vivo experiments in obese and lean mice (Figure 2). In a first experiment, we blocked the CB1 receptor in obese mice with a specific and selective antagonist (SR141716A) and found that the blockade of the CB1 receptor reduces plasma LPS levels by a mechanism linked to the improvement of the gut barrier function (Figure 2C) as shown by the lower alteration of tight junctions proteins (zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) and occludin) distribution and localisation, and independently of food intake behaviour (Figures 2D and 3). In a second set of experiments performed in lean wild-type mice, we mimicked the increased eCB system tone observed during obesity by chronic (4-week) infusion of a cannabinoid receptor agonist (HU-210) through mini-pumps implanted subcutaneously. We found that cannabinoid agonist administration significantly increased plasma LPS levels. Furthermore, increased plasma fluorescein isothiocyanate-dextran levels were observed after oral gavage (Figure 2F and G). These sets of in vivo experiments strongly suggest that an overactive eCB system increases gut permeability. Finally, in a cellular model of intestinal epithelial barrier (Caco-2 cells monolayer), we found that CB1 receptor antagonist normalised LPS and the cannabinoid receptors agonist HU-210-induced epithelial barrier alterations.
Third, we provide evidence that adipogenesis is under the control of the gut microbiota, through the modulation of the gut and adipose tissue endocannabinoid systems in both physiological and pathological conditions. We found that the higher eCB system tone (found in obesity or mimicked by eCB agonist) participates to the regulation of adipogenesis by directly acting on the adipose tissue, but also indirectly by increasing plasma LPS levels, which consequently impair adipogenesis and promote inflammatory states. Here, we found that both the specific modulation of the gut microbiota and the blockade of the CB1 receptor decrease plasma LPS levels and is associated with higher adipocyte differentiation and lipogenesis rate. One possible explanation for these surprising data could be as follows: plasma LPS levels might be under the control of CB1 in the intestine (gut barrier function); therefore, under particular pathophysiological conditions in vivo (e.g. obesity/type II diabetes), this could lead to higher circulating LPS levels. Furthermore, CB1 receptor blockade might paradoxically increase adipogenesis because of the ability of CB1 antagonist to reduce gut permeability and counteract the LPS-induced inhibitory effect on adipocyte differentiation and lipogenesis (i.e. a disinhibition mechanism). In summary, given that these treatments reduce gut permeability and, hence, plasma LPS levels and inflammatory tone, we hypothesised that LPS could act as a regulator in this process. This hypothesis was further supported in vitro and in vivo by the observation that cannabinoid-induced adipocyte differentiation and lipogenesis were directly altered (i.e. reduced) in the presence of physiological levels of LPS. In summary, because these treatments reduce gut permeability, hence, plasma LPS and inflammatory tone, we hypothesised that LPS acts as a regulator in this process. Altogether, our data provide the evidence that the consequences of obesity and gut microbiota dysregulation on gut permeability and metabolic endotoxaemia are clearly mediated by the eCB system, those observed on adiposity are likely the result of two systems interactions: LPS-dependent pathways activities and eCB system tone dysregulation (Figure 9).
Our results indicate that the endocannabinoid system tone and the plasma LPS levels have a critical function in the regulation of the adipose tissue plasticity. As obesity is commonly characterised by increased eCB system tone, higher plasma LPS levels, altered gut microbiota and impaired adipose tissue metabolism, it is likely that the increased eCB system tone found in obesity is caused by a failure or a vicious cycle within the pathways controlling the eCB system.
These findings show that two novel therapeutic targets in the treatment of obesity, the gut microbiota and the endocannabinoid system, are closely interconnected. They also provide evidence for the presence of a new integrative physiological axis between gut and adipose tissue regulated by LPS and endocannabinoids. Finally, we propose that the increased endotoxaemia and endocannabinoid system tone found in obesity might explain the altered adipose tissue metabolism.
Obesity is characterised by altered gut microbiota, low-grade inflammation and increased endocannabinoid (eCB) system tone; however, a clear connection between gut microbiota and eCB signalling has yet to be confirmed. Here, we report that gut microbiota modulate the intestinal eCB system tone, which in turn regulates gut permeability and plasma lipopolysaccharide (LPS) levels. The impact of the increased plasma LPS levels and eCB system tone found in obesity on adipose tissue metabolism (e.g. differentiation and lipogenesis) remains unknown. By interfering with the eCB system using CB1 agonist and antagonist in lean and obese mouse models, we found that the eCB system controls gut permeability and adipogenesis. We also show that LPS acts as a master switch to control adipose tissue metabolism both in vivo and ex vivo by blocking cannabinoid-driven adipogenesis. These data indicate that gut microbiota determine adipose tissue physiology through LPS-eCB system regulatory loops and may have critical functions in adipose tissue plasticity during obesity.
PMCID: PMC2925525  PMID: 20664638
adipose tissue; endocannabinoids; gut microbiota; lipopolysaccharide (LPS); obesity
7.  Immune Disorders and Its Correlation with Gut Microbiome 
Immune Network  2012;12(4):129-138.
Allergic disorders such as atopic dermatitis and asthma are common hyper-immune disorders in industrialized countries. Along with genetic association, environmental factors and gut microbiota have been suggested as major triggering factors for the development of atopic dermatitis. Numerous studies support the association of hygiene hypothesis in allergic immune disorders that a lack of early childhood exposure to diverse microorganism increases susceptibility to allergic diseases. Among the symbiotic microorganisms (e.g. gut flora or probiotics), probiotics confer health benefits through multiple action mechanisms including modification of immune response in gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). Although many human clinical trials and mouse studies demonstrated the beneficial effects of probiotics in diverse immune disorders, this effect is strain specific and needs to apply specific probiotics for specific allergic diseases. Herein, we briefly review the diverse functions and regulation mechanisms of probiotics in diverse disorders.
PMCID: PMC3467411  PMID: 23091436
Hygiene hypothesis; Intestinal microflora; Gut-Associated lymphoid tissue; Probiotics; Atopic dermatitis
8.  Communities of microbial eukaryotes in the mammalian gut within the context of environmental eukaryotic diversity 
Eukaryotic microbes (protists) residing in the vertebrate gut influence host health and disease, but their diversity and distribution in healthy hosts is poorly understood. Protists found in the gut are typically considered parasites, but many are commensal and some are beneficial. Further, the hygiene hypothesis predicts that association with our co-evolved microbial symbionts may be important to overall health. It is therefore imperative that we understand the normal diversity of our eukaryotic gut microbiota to test for such effects and avoid eliminating commensal organisms. We assembled a dataset of healthy individuals from two populations, one with traditional, agrarian lifestyles and a second with modern, westernized lifestyles, and characterized the human eukaryotic microbiota via high-throughput sequencing. To place the human gut microbiota within a broader context our dataset also includes gut samples from diverse mammals and samples from other aquatic and terrestrial environments. We curated the SILVA ribosomal database to reflect current knowledge of eukaryotic taxonomy and employ it as a phylogenetic framework to compare eukaryotic diversity across environment. We show that adults from the non-western population harbor a diverse community of protists, and diversity in the human gut is comparable to that in other mammals. However, the eukaryotic microbiota of the western population appears depauperate. The distribution of symbionts found in mammals reflects both host phylogeny and diet. Eukaryotic microbiota in the gut are less diverse and more patchily distributed than bacteria. More broadly, we show that eukaryotic communities in the gut are less diverse than in aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and few taxa are shared across habitat types, and diversity patterns of eukaryotes are correlated with those observed for bacteria. These results outline the distribution and diversity of microbial eukaryotic communities in the mammalian gut and across environments.
PMCID: PMC4063188  PMID: 24995004
protist; microbial ecology; microbial diversity; salinity; host-associated eukaryotes; parasites; intestinal protozoa; human microbiome
9.  Microbial Succession in the Gut: Directional Trends of Taxonomic and Functional Change in a Birth Cohort of Spanish Infants 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(6):e1004406.
In spite of its major impact on life-long health, the process of microbial succession in the gut of infants remains poorly understood. Here, we analyze the patterns of taxonomic and functional change in the gut microbiota during the first year of life for a birth cohort of 13 infants. We detect that individual instances of gut colonization vary in the temporal dynamics of microbiota richness, diversity, and composition at both functional and taxonomic levels. Nevertheless, trends discernible in a majority of infants indicate that gut colonization occurs in two distinct phases of succession, separated by the introduction of solid foods to the diet. This change in resource availability causes a sharp decrease in the taxonomic richness of the microbiota due to the loss of rare taxa (p = 2.06e-9), although the number of core genera shared by all infants increases substantially. Moreover, although the gut microbial succession is not strictly deterministic, we detect an overarching directionality of change through time towards the taxonomic and functional composition of the maternal microbiota. Succession is however not complete by the one year mark, as significant differences remain between one-year-olds and their mothers in terms of taxonomic (p = 0.009) and functional (p = 0.004) microbiota composition, and in taxonomic richness (p = 2.76e-37) and diversity (p = 0.016). Our results also indicate that the taxonomic composition of the microbiota shapes its functional capacities. Therefore, the observed inter-individual variability in taxonomic composition during succession is not fully compensated by functional equivalence among bacterial genera and may have important physiological consequences. Finally, network analyses suggest that positive interactions among core genera during community assembly contribute to ensure their permanence within the gut, and highlight an expansion of complexity in the interactions network as the core of taxa shared by all infants grows following the introduction of solid foods.
Author Summary
Although knowledge of the complex community of microbes that inhabits the human gut is constantly increasing, the successional process through which it develops during infancy remains poorly understood. Particularly, although gut microbiota composition is known to vary through time among infants, the effect of this variability on the functional capacities of the community has not been previously explored. We simultaneously analyze the taxonomic and functional development of the gut microbiota in a birth cohort of healthy infants during the first year of life, showing that individual instances of gut colonization vary in their temporal dynamics and that clear parallelisms exist between functional and taxonomic change. Therefore, taxonomic composition shapes the functional capacities of the microbiota, and, consequently, successional variability may affect host physiology, metabolism and immunity. Nevertheless, we detect some overarching trends in microbiota development, such as the existence of two distinct phases of succession, separated by the introduction of solid foods, and a strong directionality of change towards the taxonomic and functional composition of the maternal microbiota. Understanding the commonalities and differences among individual patterns of gut colonization in healthy infants will enable a better definition of the deviations in this process that result in microbiota imbalances and disease.
PMCID: PMC4046925  PMID: 24901968
10.  Microbial Manipulation of Immune Function for Asthma Prevention 
The “hygiene hypothesis” proposes that the increase in allergic diseases in developing countries reflects a decrease in infections during childhood. Cohort studies suggest, however, that the risks of asthma are increased in children who suffer severe illness from a viral respiratory infection in infancy. This apparent inconsistency can be reconciled through consideration of epidemiologic, clinical, and animal studies. The elements of this line of reasoning are that viral infections can predispose to organ-specific expression of allergic sensitization, and that the severity of illness is shaped by the maturity of immune function, which in turn is influenced by previous contact with bacteria and viruses, whether pathogenic or not. Clinical studies of children and interventional studies of animals indeed suggest that the exposure to microbes through the gastrointestinal tract powerfully shapes immune function. Intestinal microbiota differ in infants who later develop allergic diseases, and feeding Lactobacillus casei to infants at risk has been shown to reduce their rate of developing eczema. This has prompted studies of feeding probiotics as a primary prevention strategy for asthma. We propose that the efficacy of this approach depends on its success in inducing maturation of immune function important in defense against viral infection, rather than on its effectiveness in preventing allergic sensitization. It follows that the endpoints of studies of feeding probiotics to infants at risk for asthma should include not simply tests of responsiveness to allergens, but also assessment of intestinal flora, immune function, and the clinical response to respiratory viral infection.
PMCID: PMC2647630  PMID: 17607013
asthma; gastrointestinal; lactobacilli; microbes; prevention
11.  Immunomodulatory Effects of Escherichia coli ATCC 25922 on Allergic Airway Inflammation in a Mouse Model 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59174.
Hygiene hypothesis demonstrates that the lack of microbial exposure would promote the development of allergic airway disease (AAD). Therefore, the gut microbiota, including Escherichia coli (E. coli), would probably offer a potential strategy for AAD.
To investigate whether E. coli infection is able to suppress the induction of AAD and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms.
Nonpathogenic E. coli ATCC 25922 was infected by gavage before AAD phase in three patterns: 108 or 106 CFU in neonates or 108 CFU in adults. Then mice were sensitized and challenged with ovalbumin (OVA) to induce allergic inflammation in both the upper and lower airways. Hallmarks of AAD, in terms of eosinophil infiltration and goblet cell metaplasia in subepithelial mucosa, Th2 skewing of the immune response, and levels of T regulate cells (Tregs), were examined by histological analysis, ELISA, and flow cytometry, respectively.
E. coli, especially neonatally infected with an optimal dose, attenuated allergic responses, including a decrease in nasal rubbing and sneezing, a reduction in eosinophil inflammation and goblet cell metaplasia in subepithelial mucosa, decreased serum levels of OVA-specific IgE, and reduced Th2 (IL-4) cytokines. In contrast, this effect came with an increase of Th1 (IFN-r and IL-2) cytokines, and an enhancement of IL-10-secreting Tregs in paratracheal lymph nodes (PTLN).
E. coli suppresses allergic responses in mice, probably via a shift from Th1 to Th2 and/or induction of Tregs. Moreover, this infection is age- and dose-dependent, which may open up novel possibilities for new therapeutic interventions.
PMCID: PMC3607577  PMID: 23536867
12.  Clinical efficacy and mechanism of probiotics in allergic diseases 
Korean Journal of Pediatrics  2013;56(9):369-376.
A complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors partially contributes to the development of allergic diseases by affecting development during prenatal and early life. To explain the dramatic increase in the prevalence of allergic diseases, the hygiene hypothesis proposed that early exposure to infection prevented allergic diseases. The hygiene hypothesis has changed to the microbial hypothesis, in which exposure to microbes is closely linked to the development of the early immune system and allergic diseases. The intestinal flora may contribute to allergic disease through its substantial effect on mucosal immunity. Based on findings that exposure to microbial flora early in life can change the Th1/Th2 balance, thus favoring a Th1 cell response, probiotics may be beneficial in preventing allergic diseases. However, evidence from clinical and basic research to prove the efficacy of probiotics in preventing allergy is lacking. To date, studies have yielded inconsistent findings on the usefulness of probiotics in allergic diseases. It is difficult to demonstrate an exact effect of probiotics on asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergy because of study limitations, such as different first supplementation period, duration, different strains, short follow-up period, and host factors. However, many studies have demonstrated a significant clinical improvement in atopic dermatitis with the use of probiotics. An accurate understanding of the development of human immunity, intestinal barrier function, intestinal microbiota, and systemic immunity is required to comprehend the effects of probiotics on allergic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3819679  PMID: 24223597
Allergy; Hygiene hypothesis; Immunity; Microbiota; Probiotics
13.  Probiotics and food allergy 
The exact prevalence of food allergy in the general population is unknown, but almost 12% of pediatric population refers a suspicion of food allergy. IgE mediated reactions to food are actually the best-characterized types of allergy, and they might be particularly harmful especially in children. According to the “hygiene hypothesis” low or no exposure to exogenous antigens in early life may increase the risk of allergic diseases by both delaying the development of the immune tolerance and limiting the Th2/Th1 switch. The critical role of intestinal microbiota in the development of immune tolerance improved recently the interest on probiotics, prebiotics, antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acid, folate and vitamins, which seem to have positive effects on the immune functions.
Probiotics consist in bacteria or yeast, able to re-colonize and restore microflora symbiosis in intestinal tract. One of the most important characteristics of probiotics is their safety for human health. Thanks to their ability to adhere to intestinal epithelial cells and to modulate and stabilize the composition of gut microflora, probiotics bacteria may play an important role in the regulation of intestinal and systemic immunity. They actually seem capable of restoring the intestinal microbic equilibrium and modulating the activation of immune cells.
Several studies have been recently conducted on the role of probiotics in preventing and/or treating allergic disorders, but the results are often quite contradictory, probably because of the heterogeneity of strains, the duration of therapy and the doses administered to patients. Therefore, new studies are needed in order to clarify the functions and the utility of probiotics in food allergies and ion other types of allergic disorders.
PMCID: PMC3733627  PMID: 23895430
Food allergy; Probiotics; Allergic disease; Intestinal microbiota; Children
14.  Parental dietary fat intake alters offspring microbiome and immunity1 
Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)  2013;191(6):10.4049/jimmunol.1301057.
Mechanisms underlying modern increases in prevalence of human inflammatory diseases remain unclear. The hygiene hypothesis postulates that decreased microbial exposure has, in part, driven this immune dysregulation. However, dietary fatty acids also influence immunity, partially through modulation of responses to microbes. Prior reports have described the direct effects of high fat diets on the gut microbiome and inflammation, and some have additionally shown metabolic consequences for offspring. Our study sought to expand on these previous observations to identify the effects of parental diet on offspring immunity using mouse models to provide insights into challenging aspects of human health. To test the hypothesis that parental dietary fat consumption during gestation and lactation influences offspring immunity, we compared pups of mice fed either a Western diet fatty acid profile or a standard low fat diet. All pups were weaned onto the control diet to specifically test the effects of early developmental fat exposure on immune development. Pups from Western diet breeders were not obese or diabetic, but still had worse outcomes in models of infection, autoimmunity, and allergic sensitization. They had heightened colonic inflammatory responses, with increased circulating bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and muted systemic LPS responsiveness. These deleterious impacts of the Western diet were associated with alterations of the offspring gut microbiome. These results indicate that parental fat consumption can leave a “lard legacy” impacting offspring immunity and suggest inheritable microbiota may contribute to the modern patterns of human health and disease.
PMCID: PMC3831371  PMID: 23935191
15.  External Influence of Early Childhood Establishment of Gut Microbiota and Subsequent Health Implications 
Postnatal maturation of immune regulation is largely driven by exposure to microbes. The gastrointestinal tract is the largest source of microbial exposure, as the human gut microbiome contains up to 1014 bacteria, which is 10 times the number of cells in the human body. Several studies in recent years have shown differences in the composition of the gut microbiota in children who are exposed to different conditions before, during, and early after birth. A number of maternal factors are responsible for the establishment and colonization of gut microbiota in infants, such as the conditions surrounding the prenatal period, time and mode of delivery, diet, mother’s age, BMI, smoking status, household milieu, socioeconomic status, breastfeeding and antibiotic use, as well as other environmental factors that have profound effects on the microbiota and on immunoregulation during early life. Early exposures impacting the intestinal microbiota are associated with the development of childhood diseases that may persist to adulthood such as asthma, allergic disorders (atopic dermatitis, rhinitis), chronic immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, type 1 diabetes, obesity, and eczema. This overview highlights some of the exposures during the pre- and postnatal time periods that are key in the colonization and development of the gastrointestinal microbiota of infants as well as some of the diseases or disorders that occur due to the pattern of initial gut colonization.
PMCID: PMC4190989  PMID: 25346925
antibiotics; cesarean section; diet; gut microbiota; immunity; inflammatory diseases
16.  Role of Antibiotics and Fungal Microbiota in Driving Pulmonary Allergic Responses  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(9):4996-5003.
Over the past four decades, there has been a significant increase in allergy and asthma in westernized countries, which correlates with alterations in fecal microbiota (microflora) and widespread use of antibiotics (the “hygiene hypothesis”). Antibiotics also lead to overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans, which can secrete potent prostaglandin-like immune response modulators. We have developed a mouse model of antibiotic-induced microbiota disruption that includes stable increases in gastrointestinal (GI) enteric bacteria and GI Candida levels with no introduction of microbes into the lungs. Mice are treated for 5 days with cefoperazone in the drinking water, followed by a single oral gavage of C. albicans. This results in alterations of GI bacterial populations and increased yeast numbers in the GI microbiota for at least 2 to 3 weeks and can drive the development of a CD4 T-cell-mediated allergic airway response to subsequent mold spore (Aspergillus fumigatus) exposure in immunocompetent mice without previous systemic antigen priming. The allergic response in the lungs is characterized by increased levels of eosinophils, mast cells, interleukin-5 (IL-5), IL-13, gamma interferon, immunoglobulin E, and mucus-secreting cells. In the absence of antibiotics, mice exposed to Aspergillus spores do not develop an allergic response in the airways. This study provides the first experimental evidence to support a role for antibiotics and fungal microbiota in promoting the development of allergic airway disease. In addition, these studies also highlight the concept that events in distal mucosal sites such as the GI tract can play an important role in regulating immune responses in the lungs.
PMCID: PMC517468  PMID: 15321991
17.  Environmentally-acquired bacteria influence microbial diversity and natural innate immune responses at gut surfaces 
BMC Biology  2009;7:79.
Early microbial colonization of the gut reduces the incidence of infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Recent population studies reveal that childhood hygiene is a significant risk factor for development of inflammatory bowel disease, thereby reinforcing the hygiene hypothesis and the potential importance of microbial colonization during early life. The extent to which early-life environment impacts on microbial diversity of the adult gut and subsequent immune processes has not been comprehensively investigated thus far. We addressed this important question using the pig as a model to evaluate the impact of early-life environment on microbe/host gut interactions during development.
Genetically-related piglets were housed in either indoor or outdoor environments or in experimental isolators. Analysis of over 3,000 16S rRNA sequences revealed major differences in mucosa-adherent microbial diversity in the ileum of adult pigs attributable to differences in early-life environment. Pigs housed in a natural outdoor environment showed a dominance of Firmicutes, in particular Lactobacillus, whereas animals housed in a hygienic indoor environment had reduced Lactobacillus and higher numbers of potentially pathogenic phylotypes. Our analysis revealed a strong negative correlation between the abundance of Firmicutes and pathogenic bacterial populations in the gut. These differences were exaggerated in animals housed in experimental isolators. Affymetrix microarray technology and Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction revealed significant gut-specific gene responses also related to early-life environment. Significantly, indoor-housed pigs displayed increased expression of Type 1 interferon genes, Major Histocompatibility Complex class I and several chemokines. Gene Ontology and pathway analysis further confirmed these results.
Early-life environment significantly affects both microbial composition of the adult gut and mucosal innate immune function. We observed that a microbiota dominated by lactobacilli may function to maintain mucosal immune homeostasis and limit pathogen colonization.
PMCID: PMC2785767  PMID: 19930542
18.  Restricting Microbial Exposure in Early Life Negates the Immune Benefits Associated with Gut Colonization in Environments of High Microbial Diversity 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28279.
Acquisition of the intestinal microbiota in early life corresponds with the development of the mucosal immune system. Recent work on caesarean-delivered infants revealed that early microbial composition is influenced by birthing method and environment. Furthermore, we have confirmed that early-life environment strongly influences both the adult gut microbiota and development of the gut immune system. Here, we address the impact of limiting microbial exposure after initial colonization on the development of adult gut immunity.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Piglets were born in indoor or outdoor rearing units, allowing natural colonization in the immediate period after birth, prior to transfer to high-health status isolators. Strikingly, gut closure and morphological development were strongly affected by isolator-rearing, independent of indoor or outdoor origins of piglets. Isolator-reared animals showed extensive vacuolation and disorganization of the gut epithelium, inferring that normal gut closure requires maturation factors present in maternal milk. Although morphological maturation and gut closure were delayed in isolator-reared animals, these hard-wired events occurred later in development. Type I IFN, IL-22, IL-23 and Th17 pathways were increased in indoor-isolator compared to outdoor-isolator animals during early life, indicating greater immune activation in pigs originating from indoor environments reflecting differences in the early microbiota. This difference was less apparent later in development due to enhanced immune activation and convergence of the microbiota in all isolator-reared animals. This correlated with elevation of Type I IFN pathways in both groups, although T cell pathways were still more affected in indoor-reared animals.
Environmental factors, in particular microbial exposure, influence expression of a large number of immune-related genes. However, the homeostatic effects of microbial colonization in outdoor environments require sustained microbial exposure throughout development. Gut development in high-hygiene environments negatively impacts on normal succession of the gut microbiota and promotes innate immune activation which may impair immune homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3245219  PMID: 22216092
19.  The Human Microbiome. Early Life Determinant of Health Outcomes 
Annals of the American Thoracic Society  2014;11(Suppl 1):S7-S12.
The development of new technologies to isolate and identify microbial genomes has markedly increased our understanding of the role of microbiomes in health and disease. The idea, first proposed as part of the hygiene hypothesis, that environmental microbes influence the developmental trajectories of the immune system in early life, has now been considerably extended and refined. The abundant microbiota present in mucosal surfaces, especially the gut, is actively selected by the host through complex receptor systems that respond differentially depending on the molecular patterns presented to mucosal cells. Germ-free mice are more likely to develop allergic airway inflammation and show alterations in normal motor control and anxiety. These effects can be reversed by neonatal microbial recolonization but remain unchanged if recolonization occurs in adults. What emerges from these recent studies is the discovery of a complex, major early environmental determinant of lifetime human phenotypes. To change the natural course of asthma, obesity, and other chronic inflammatory conditions, active manipulation of the extensive bacterial, phage, and fungal metagenomes present in mucosal surfaces may be required, specifically during the developing years. Domesticating the human microbiome and adapting it to our health needs may be a challenge akin to, but far more complex than, the one faced by humanity when a few dozen species of plants and animals were domesticated during the transition between hunter-gatherer and sedentary societies after the end of the Pleistocene era.
PMCID: PMC3972972  PMID: 24437411
20.  Probiotic Therapy as a Novel Approach for Allergic Disease 
The prevalence of allergic disease has increased dramatically in Western countries over the past few decades. The hygiene hypothesis, whereby reduced exposure to microbial stimuli in early life programs the immune system toward a Th2-type allergic response, is suggested to be a major mechanism to explain this phenomenon in developed populations. Such microbial exposures are recognized to be critical regulators of intestinal microbiota development. Furthermore, intestinal microbiota has an important role in signaling to the developing mucosal immune system. Intestinal dysbiosis has been shown to precede the onset of clinical allergy, possibly through altered immune regulation. Existing treatments for allergic diseases such as eczema, asthma, and food allergy are limited and so the focus has been to identify alternative treatment or preventive strategies. Over the past 10 years, a number of clinical studies have investigated the potential of probiotic bacteria to ameliorate the pathological features of allergic disease. This novel approach has stemmed from numerous data reporting the pleiotropic effects of probiotics that include immunomodulation, restoration of intestinal dysbiosis as well as maintaining epithelial barrier integrity. In this mini-review, the emerging role of probiotics in the prevention and/or treatment of allergic disease are discussed with a focus on the evidence from animal and human studies.
PMCID: PMC3448073  PMID: 23049509
allergy; asthma; clinical; eczema; immunomodulation; probiotic
21.  Microbial Induction of Immunity, Inflammation, and Cancer 
The human microbiota presents a highly active metabolic that influences the state of health of our gastrointestinal tracts as well as our susceptibility to disease. Although much of our initial microbiota is adopted from our mothers, its final composition and diversity is determined by environmental factors. Westernization has significantly altered our microbial function. Extensive experimental and clinical evidence indicates that the westernized diet, rich in animal products and low in complex carbohydrates, plus the overuse of antibiotics and underuse of breastfeeding, leads to a heightened inflammatory potential of the microbiota. Chronic inflammation leads to the expression of certain diseases in genetically predisposed individuals. Antibiotics and a “clean” environment, termed the “hygiene hypothesis,” has been linked to the rise in allergy and inflammatory bowel disease, due to impaired beneficial bacterial exposure and education of the gut immune system, which comprises the largest immune organ within the body. The elevated risk of colon cancer is associated with the suppression of microbial fermentation and butyrate production, as butyrate provides fuel for the mucosa and is anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative. This article will summarize the work to date highlighting the complicated and dynamic relationship between the gut microbiota and immunity, inflammation and carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3059938  PMID: 21423403
microbiota; colon cancer; allergy; inflammatory bowel disease; diet
22.  Gut microbiota: next frontier in understanding human health and development of biotherapeutics 
The gut microbiota is a remarkable asset for human health. As a key element in the development and prevention of specific diseases, its study has yielded a new field of promising biotherapeutics. This review provides comprehensive and updated knowledge of the human gut microbiota, its implications in health and disease, and the potentials and limitations of its modification by currently available biotherapeutics to treat, prevent and/or restore human health, and future directions. Homeostasis of the gut microbiota maintains various functions which are vital to the maintenance of human health. Disruption of the intestinal ecosystem equilibrium (gut dysbiosis) is associated with a plethora of human diseases, including autoimmune and allergic diseases, colorectal cancer, metabolic diseases, and bacterial infections. Relevant underlying mechanisms by which specific intestinal bacteria populations might trigger the development of disease in susceptible hosts are being explored across the globe. Beneficial modulation of the gut microbiota using biotherapeutics, such as prebiotics, probiotics, and antibiotics, may favor health-promoting populations of bacteria and can be exploited in development of biotherapeutics. Other technologies, such as development of human gut models, bacterial screening, and delivery formulations eg, microencapsulated probiotics, may contribute significantly in the near future. Therefore, the human gut microbiota is a legitimate therapeutic target to treat and/or prevent various diseases. Development of a clear understanding of the technologies needed to exploit the gut microbiota is urgently required.
PMCID: PMC3156250  PMID: 21847343
gut microbiota; human health; dysbiosis; biotherapeutics; probiotics; microencapsulation
23.  Additive Effect between IL-13 Polymorphism and Cesarean Section Delivery/Prenatal Antibiotics Use on Atopic Dermatitis: A Birth Cohort Study (COCOA) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96603.
Although cesarean delivery and prenatal exposure to antibiotics are likely to affect the gut microbiome in infancy, their effect on the development of atopic dermatitis (AD) in infancy is unclear. The influence of individual genotypes on these relationships is also unclear. To evaluate with a prospective birth cohort study whether cesarean section, prenatal exposure to antibiotics, and susceptible genotypes act additively to promote the development of AD in infancy.
The Cohort for Childhood of Asthma and Allergic Diseases (COCOA) was selected from the general Korean population. A pediatric allergist assessed 412 infants for the presence of AD at 1 year of age. Their cord blood DNA was subjected to interleukin (IL)-13 (rs20541) and cluster-of-differentiation (CD)14 (rs2569190) genotype analysis.
The combination of cesarean delivery and prenatal exposure to antibiotics associated significantly and positively with AD (adjusted odds ratio, 5.70; 95% CI, 1.19–27.3). The association between cesarean delivery and AD was significantly modified by parental history of allergic diseases or risk-associated IL-13 (rs20541) and CD14 (rs2569190) genotypes. There was a trend of interaction between IL-13 (rs20541) and delivery mode with respect to the subsequent risk of AD. (P for interaction = 0.039) Infants who were exposed prenatally to antibiotics and were born by cesarean delivery had a lower total microbiota diversity in stool samples at 6 months of age than the control group. As the number of these risk factors increased, the AD risk rose (trend p<0.05).
Cesarean delivery and prenatal antibiotic exposure may affect the gut microbiota, which may in turn influence the risk of AD in infants. These relationships may be shaped by the genetic predisposition.
PMCID: PMC4029558  PMID: 24848505
24.  Gut microbiota composition and development of atopic manifestations in infancy: the KOALA Birth Cohort Study 
Gut  2006;56(5):661-667.
Background and aims
Perturbations in intestinal microbiota composition due to lifestyle changes may be involved in the development of atopic diseases. We examined gut microbiota composition in early infancy and the subsequent development of atopic manifestations and sensitisation.
The faeces of 957 infants aged 1 month and participating in the KOALA Birth Cohort Study were analysed using quantitative real‐time PCR. Information on atopic symptoms (eczema, wheeze) and potential confounders was acquired through repeated questionnaires. Total and specific IgE were measured in venous blood samples collected during home visits when the infant was 2 years old. During these home visits a clinical diagnosis of atopic dermatitis was made according to the UK‐Working Party criteria.
The presence of Escherichia coli was associated with a higher risk of developing eczema (ORadj = 1.87; 95% CI 1.15 to 3.04), this risk being increased with increasing numbers of E coli (pfor trend = 0.016). Infants colonised with Clostridium difficile were at higher risk of developing eczema (ORadj = 1.40; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.91), recurrent wheeze (ORadj = 1.75; 95% CI 1.09 to 2.80) and allergic sensitisation (ORadj = 1.54; 95% CI 1.02 to 2.31). Furthermore, the presence of C difficile was also associated with a higher risk of a diagnosis of atopic dermatitis during the home visit (ORadj = 1.73; 95% CI 1.08 to 2.78).
This study demonstrates that differences in gut microbiota composition precede the development of atopy. Since E coli was only associated with eczema and C difficile was associated with all atopic outcomes, the underlying mechanisms explaining these association may be different.
PMCID: PMC1942165  PMID: 17047098
atopy;  Clostridium difficile ;  Escherichia coli ; gut microbiota; infant
25.  A microbiota signature associated with experimental food allergy promotes allergic sensitization and anaphylaxis 
The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology  2012;131(1):10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.026.
Commensal microbiota play a critical role in maintaining oral tolerance. The effect of food allergy on the gut microbial ecology remains unknown.
We sought to establish the composition of the gut microbiota in experimental food allergy and its role in disease pathogenesis.
Food allergy–prone mice with a gain-of-function mutation in the IL-4 receptor α chain (Il4raF709) and wild-type (WT) control animals were subjected to oral sensitization with chicken egg ovalbumin (OVA). Enforced tolerance was achieved by using allergen-specific regulatory T (Treg) cells. Community structure analysis of gut microbiota was performed by using a high-density 16S rDNA oligonucleotide microarrays (PhyloChip) and massively parallel pyrosequencing of 16S rDNA amplicons.
OVA-sensitized Il4raF709 mice exhibited a specific microbiota signature characterized by coordinate changes in the abundance of taxa of several bacterial families, including the Lachnospiraceae, Lactobacillaceae, Rikenellaceae, and Porphyromonadaceae. This signature was not shared by similarly sensitized WT mice, which did not exhibit an OVA-induced allergic response. Treatment of OVA-sensitized Il4raF709 mice with OVA-specific Treg cells led to a distinct tolerance-associated signature coincident with the suppression of the allergic response. The microbiota of allergen-sensitized Il4raF709 mice differentially promoted OVA-specific IgE responses and anaphylaxis when reconstituted in WT germ-free mice.
Mice with food allergy exhibit a specific gut microbiota signature capable of transmitting disease susceptibility and subject to reprogramming by enforced tolerance. Disease-associated microbiota may thus play a pathogenic role in food allergy.
PMCID: PMC3860814  PMID: 23201093
Food allergy; microbiome; microbiota; regulatory T cells; tolerance; anaphylaxis; IgE; 16S rDNA; IL-4 receptor

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