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Gut colonization by butyrate producers and atopic dermatitis

Dr. Clarissa Schwab/Christian Lacroix – EZH (Switzerland) Laboratory for Food Biotechnology Zurich, Switzerland is the project leader of a study on “Infant gut development and the risk of allergy and atopic dermatitis” that was one of the successful projects selected in 2019 under the BINC funding programmes.

The aim of this research project is to analyse if gut colonisation by butyrate producers have impact on atopic dermatitis.

Gut microbiota development is impacted by mode of delivery, diet, lifestyle and environmental parameters such as closeness to animals.

These parameters affect gut microbiota composition and activity, such as, short chain fatty acid formation. Major short chain fatty acids in the human gut are acetate, butyrate and propionate. Importantly, the occurrence of specific butyrate producers has been negatively associated with the severity of atopic dermatitis in infants.

We hypothesise that colonization by butyrate producers is a determining factor in the development of allergic diseases, and plan to test our hypothesis using fecal samples from a birth cohort study from St.Gallen (CARE-Childhood Allergy, Nutrition and Environment – study).

We will combine an array of cultivation-dependent and -independent analytical tools (for example quantitative PCR, 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing) to compare the abundance of butyrate producers in healthy children and children with atopic dermatitis during the first year of life.

This study will contribute to the understanding of gut microbiota development, and its link with allergic diseases in childhood. Gut microbiota in the first years of life may represent a critical target for the prevention or management of allergic diseases.

Results obtained here might lead to a therapeutic approach using butyrate-producing gut microbes as live biotherapeutics, or to a targeted nutritional supplementation that enhances the abundance of butyrate producers, or of butyrate to reduce the risk of allergy development.