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Wash U research links childhood asthma, airway ‘microbiome’

Just as changes in the bacteria which populate the gut – its microbiome – have been directly linked to intestinal disease, a new study from Washington University School of Medicine has found a relationship between bacteria that live in the upper airway and the severity of childhood asthma.

The Washington University study was conducted in conjunction with a clinical trial involving 214 children ages 5 to 11 with mild to moderate asthma. The researchers found that children having early warning signs of an impending asthma flare were also more likely to have infectious bacteria associated with disease, including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and Moraxella, living in their upper airways. During periods when their asthma was well-controlled, their airway microbes were mainly populated with other common types of bacteria.

“Though our study can’t prove causation, it raises intriguing questions that we plan to pursue,” said senior author Avraham Beigelman, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at Washington University. “If we somehow supplement such patients with what appear to be good bacteria, will they do better?”

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, asthma is the most common chronic pediatric disease in the U.S., affecting about one in 12 children under 18. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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