The Role of Bifidobacteria in HMOs Utilization and Systematic Immune Upregulation

Written by
Dr Fathalla Ali, PHD Paediatrics

10/7/2021​

It is believed that early colonization with diverse gut microbiota is important for the development of the immune system, particularly during the first 3 months of life. Among the most abundant members of the gut microbiota that colonize the gut of infants during early days of life are Bifidobacteria, which are believed to play a major role in the development of the immune system. However, the mechanisms by which the Bifidobacteria contribute to the development of a strong immune system have not been fully understood. In a randomized control trial at the Karolinska institute, researchers investigated the association between Bifidobacteria, their metabolites and immunoregulation during the first few months of life. In this study, exclusively breastfed full-term infants were randomized (n=20) to receive Bifidobacterium longum (subsp) infantis EVC001 daily for 21 days starting at day 7 or to receive breast milk alone (n = 20). Infants were followed up until they reached the age of 2 months. Fecal samples and blood samples from both groups (randomized and control) were collected on day 6 , 40 and 60 postnatal and analyzed for cytokine concentrations, non-targeted fecal metabolomics and metagenomics. Findings from this study showed that:

  • A systematic and intestinal inflammation and systematic immune dysregulation were observed in infants not colonized or under colonized with Bifidobacteria during the first months of life.
  • The Human Milk oligosaccharides utilization genes (HMO-utilization genes) were detected in infants received B.longum subsp. infantis EVC001.
  • Less inflammation in the gut and blood was observed in infants whose gut microbiota was able to break down HMOs.
  • Low pro-inflammatory markers were observed in infants who received B.longum subsp. infantis EVC001 as a result of HMOs utilization.

In conclusion, data from this study identified the key factors that correlate between the early colonization with Bifidobacterium species and decreased the incidence of immune-mediated diseases. Additionally, the results highlight the importance of early supplementation with beneficial bacteria during the first month of life.

Keywords: Bifidobacteria, Inflammation, pro-inflammatory, immune system.

Reference:

Henrick, B. M., Rodriguez, L., Lakshmikanth, T., Pou, C., Henckel, E., Arzoomand, A., Olin, A., Wang, J., Mikes, J., Tan, Z., Chen, Y., Ehrlich, A. M., Bernhardsson, A. K., Mugabo, C. H., Ambrosiani, Y., Gustafsson, A., Chew, S., Brown, H. K., Prambs, J., Bohlin, K., … Brodin, P. (2021). Bifidobacteria-mediated immune system imprinting early in life. Cell, S0092-8674(21)00660-7. Click here

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