By Bio-IT World Staff
June 10, 2014 | This month, a review article appeared in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology that follows the typical growth of microbial communities living in and on humans over the first three years of life. ("Typical," in this case, meaning typical of people in developed Western countries, where most research on the microbiome has been conducted.) The article, written by a Dutch group led by Jan Knol of Wageningen University, is a useful summary of the state of knowledge, tracing the establishment of different bacterial groups in the human body over time, a few major environmental factors known to affect the composition of the microbiome, and what little is understood about the clinical importance of certain microbes. The major focus is on the gut flora, and on research linking microbial factors with allergies and autoimmune disorders. While the authors appear convinced of causal links between the microbiome and certain human diseases, and at least sympathetic to the view that rising incidences of obesity, diabetes, and multiple allergies may be related to society-wide changes in the human microbiome, they are careful to highlight conflicting studies and the difficulties in clearly defining the members of any complex microbial sample.
The entire article is open access and can be read at the Wiley Online Library, including a chart that outlines the major findings of 24 studies since 2007 that have compared the composition of children's gut flora with the incidence of different allergies.