Researchers Examine Gut Bacteria in Children for Risk Factors for T1D

Posted in Diabetes Research News

In an effort to better understand how type 1 diabetes may develop, researchers took a closer look at how gut health changes from infancy through childhood and into adulthood. They used data collected through The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in Youth (TEDDY) study, which utilized reports from Finnish, German, Italian, Mexican, American, and Turkish children. This particular study on gut bacteria focused on 783 children between the ages of three months and five years from Finland, Germany, Sweden, and the United States.

Some of the factors they examined were whether children were breastfed or formula fed and for how long, any illnesses they contracted, antibiotics they took, environmental changes, and life experiences. Their gut microbial profile was determined through stool samples. One interesting finding was that when there were more Bacteroides species and a decreased production of short-chain fatty acids, there was an increased susceptibility to islet autoimmunity (IA) or type 1 diabetes (T1D).

The researchers found that the gut microbiomes differed greatly between participants, and there was a marked difference in children who were breastfed versus those that were not, as well as once solid foods were introduced into their diet. Breastfeeding showed higher levels of an enzyme that helps with milk fermentation, while solid foods increased enzymes that help metabolize fiber. In addition, participants who had taken oral antibiotics showed disrupted microbial stability along with decreases in some strains of Bifidobacterium. However, early probiotic supplementation helped protect control subjects against islet autoimmunity.

All of these factors may play a role in the development of islet autoimmunity or T1D. This study has increased awareness of the role that environmental factors may play in T1D along with genetics. There are still numerous issues this study did not address, but it is a strong starting point for further research, especially when it comes to the influence of breastfeeding and oral antibiotics on the development of T1D.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is interested to see how this study may impact future research in T1D and furthering the understanding of factors related to disease development and prevention. The DRC supports early career scientists pursuing novel research related to the prevention and treatment of T1D as well as improved quality of life for individuals living with this disease. Learn more about current studies and how to help by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.