Findings from a nationwide study conducted by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a subsidiary of City of Hope, suggest that a family’s socioeconomic status (SES) may influence the makeup of children’s gut microbiome – the mixture of microscopic organisms in the digestive tract.
SES includes economic resources such as education, income and occupation, and is reflected in living conditions, nutrition and psychosocial stress, according to the study, which focused on education levels. mothers and fathers.
DNA and nucleic acid samples from a racially diverse group of 588 children, aged 1 month to 15 years, found that environmental factors such as SES could influence the health of individuals throughout their life. life, potentially influencing measures such as blood pressure, height, weight, diabetes, obesity and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The gut microbiota plays an important role in a wide range of bodily functions, including the immune system, metabolic and inflammatory processes, and the central nervous system.
While previous studies have examined how SES can affect the gut microbiome of adults, this is one of the first such examinations in young children, according to the study recently published in the journal Micro-organisms.
“These findings may have important implications for understanding how interventions in childhood might help prevent the possible impact of SES on microbiome diversity and subsequent health,” said Candace Lewis, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the neurogenomics division of TGen, and the lead author of the study. “Our results demonstrate that modifiable environmental factors, such as SES, can influence the composition of the gut microbiome at an early age.”
Human DNA samples were taken from the saliva. Samples of microbial nucleic acids were extracted from the stool. Researchers tested and classified an abundance of gut microbes, including: Anaerostipes, Bacteroids, Eubacterium, Fecalibacterium, and Lachnospiraceae. Parents with more years of schooling had children who scored higher on a “latent microbiome factor”, defined as a higher abundance of Anaerostipes, Eubacterium, Fecalibacterium, and Lachnospiraceae, and a lower abundance of Bacteroids.
Fecalibacterium, considered a key biomarker of a healthy gut, produces butyrate, which is an energy source that plays a major role in gut physiology and has several health benefits including protection against pathogens, modulation of the immune system and reduction of cancer progression.
“Fecalibacterium abundance may be a biological pathway in which early environmental influences shape vulnerability to disease across the lifespan, ”the study said.
Other factors considered in the study were age, gender, exposure to antibiotics, and even type of birth (whether the child was born vaginally or by Caesarean section).
“These findings are important as our understanding of the influences of the gut microbiome on health continues to expand,” said Sarah Highlander, Ph.D., research professor in the Pathogen and Microbiome division of TGen and one of the authors of the study. “This study tests associations between familial SES with relative abundance of microbiota type and diversity in infants and children, while monitoring for potential genetic associations.”
Contributing to this study were: Arizona State University; Wellesley College; Hasbro Children’s Hospital; Brown University; and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Discovery and Tools, part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Funding of this study – Familial SES is associated with the gut microbiome in infants and children – was provided by: the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIH’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO project) and the NIH National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.