Gut microbes may predict whether or not children will suffer undernutrition as they grow, according to a study with twins in Malawi.
Tens of trillions of microbes live in the gut, where they synthesize vitamins and process nutrients in the diet to keep the body healthy. These microbes and their genes, collectively known as the gut microbiota, begin to colonize the intestinal tract at birth.
Researchers long have known that a lack of food is not the sole contributor to childhood undernutrition; infections and intestinal problems that prevent nutrient absorption are also thought to play a role.
A 2013 study pointed to a dysfunctional collection of gut microbes as an underlying cause of childhood undernutrition. These children possessed communities of gut microbes that did not mature as they grew and that couldn’t be restored to good health even after standard treatment with nutrient-dense therapeutic foods.
The new research, involving infants and children in Malawi, in sub-Saharan Africa, uncovers new clues to the pathology of undernutrition by looking at gut bacteria targeted by a key immune system molecule, IgA (short for Immunoglobulin A).
The scientists also demonstrated that beneficial gut microbes identified in fecal samples from healthy children could be used to treat undernutrition in mice.
“Undernutrition robs children of achieving their full potential,” says Jeffrey Gordon, director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology and the Center for Gut Microbiome and Nutrition Research at Washington University in St. Louis.
“Many children who have been saved with current therapies suffer from the long-term consequences of undernutrition such as stunted growth, neurocognitive problems, and weakened immune systems. Our findings point to the possibility of developing more effective treatments for undernutrition using beneficial microbes–or next-generation probiotics–in addition to therapeutic foods.”
IgA, an antibody, is secreted in large quantities in the gastrointestinal tract, where it binds to gut microbes and food particles, preventing them from traversing the gut lining. In essence, IgA is part of a “wall” that separates the gut microbiota from its human host, allowing microbial cells and human cells to peacefully co-exist.
For the new study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers explored gut microbes targeted by IgA in pairs of twins in which one twin became severely undernourished during the first three years of life and the other remained healthy. As a comparison, they also studied pairs of healthy young twins who remained well-nourished.
The findings show that IgA’s interactions with several types of gut bacteria, including Enterobacteriaceae, correlate with the development of undernutrition. Enterobacteriaceae is a large family of bacteria found in the gut that includes E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and other pathogenic species.
In healthy people, such strains of bacteria often don’t cause problems, but in undernourished children, their effects can be devastating.
The researchers’ discovery is bolstered by additional studies in germ-free mice raised in sterile environments. Transplanting IgA-bound gut microbes, purified from the gut microbiota of undernourished children, into the mice led to dramatic weight loss, rapid disruption of the lining of the small intestine and colon, and sepsis in mice fed the same nutrient-poor diet as the children.
The weight loss, sepsis, and the breakdown of the gut lining in undernourished mice could be prevented, however, by administering just two IgA-targeted strains of bacteria that were well-represented in the gut microbiota from healthy children.
“This study demonstrates the usefulness of mining the microbiota for potential therapeutic agents using the lenses of the gut immune system, specifically the IgA it produces, as a guide,” says first author Andrew L. Kau, instructor of medicine. “Results from the children and the mice can be used to design follow-up clinical studies to evaluate this approach.”
“These beneficial microbes are important leads, but more work is needed to determine whether they represent effective, safe treatments in children,” Gordon says.
“Nonetheless, this study provides the first evidence that benchmark measurements of interactions between a molecule in the gut immune system and gut microbes may predict which children are likely to develop undernutrition as they age.
“If we can intervene early to repair the gut microbiota in undernourished children or those at risk for the condition, we may be able to provide new and more effective ways for achieving healthy growth and healthy immune function.”
The work, funded largely by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also involved scientists at the University of California, Davis, University of Malawi in Africa, and University of Tampere in Finland.
Are many people are sick these days due to pesticides like glyphosate killing off specific beneficial gut bacteria?
Two studies published in the past six months reveal a disturbing finding: glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup appear to suppress the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, leading to the overgrowth of extremely pathogenic bacteria.
Late last year, new research indicated that glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup may be contributing to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, both in GM-produced food and our own bodies. By suppressing the growth of beneficial bacteria and encouraging the growth of pathogenic ones, including deadly botulism-associated Clostridum botulinum, GM agriculture may be contributing to the alarming increase, wordwide, in infectious diseases that are resistant to conventional antibiotics, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which the CDC’s director recently termed a ‘nightmare bacteria.’
Now another new study published in the journal Anaerobe titled, “Glyphosate suppresses the antagonistic effect of Enterococcus spp. On Clostridum botulinum,” confirms this herbicide’s ability to adversely affect gut bacteria populations (i.e. generate dysbios). In an attempt to explain why Clostridum botulinum associated diseases in cattle have increased during the last 10-15 years in German cattle, researchers theorized that since normal intestinal flora is a critical factor in preventing Clostridum botulinum colonization in conditions such as infantile botulism perhaps the ingestion of strong biocides such as glyphosate found in GM cattle feed could reduce their natural, lactic acid bacteria dependent immune defenses as pathogenic microbes.
They reported on the toxicity of glyphosate to Enteroccocus, the most prevalent lactic acid bacteria species in the gastrointestinal tract of cattle, and concluded “Ingestion of this herbicide could be a significant predisposing factor that is associated with the increase in C. botulinum mediated diseases in cattle.”
Of course, the implications of this finding extend beyond the health of cattle or poultry. The majority of American consumers who don’t even have the legal right to know through truthful labeling if they are eating GMOs, are consuming non-organic, Roundup Ready soy, canola, cottonseed or soy on a daily basis, and therefore are being exposed to glyphosate residues year round; additionally, animals fed Roundup sprayed GMO plants will bioaccumulate glyphosate and/or glyphosate metabolites, adding to the consumer’s bodily burden of these gut flora-altering, highly toxic chemicals.
GMO Herbicides Kill More Than ‘Weeds,’ Are Broad-Spectrum Biocides …
One of the most concerning adverse effects of glyphosate most relevant to the topic of this article is its destructive effects on the fertility of soil itself. In an earlier expose titled, Un-Earthed: Is Monsanto’s Glyphosate Destroying the Soil?, concerning findings published in the journal Current Microbiology were discussed showing that Roundup herbicide is having a negative impact on the microbiodiversity of the soil, including microorganisms of food interest, and specifically those found in raw and fermented foods.
One of the key implications of this finding is that since many of the beneficial bacteria that make up the 100 trillion bacteria in our gut necessary for health come from our food, and these bacteria-rich foods nourish and help maintain the flora in our gut, the removal of key beneficial microorganisms from the soil will likely result in profoundly disrupting the bacteria-mediated infrastructure of our health. …
Eat organic as much as possible, but you will still be exposed. Glyphosate is everywhere.
Across the U.S. it’s used commonly on corn, soybeans, cotton and rice, to the tune of 180-185 millions of pounds in 2007 — more tonnage than any other pesticide.
And that’s only use on farms. RoundUp is also the second most commonly used pesticide in homes and gardens across the country. …
EPA agrees to take action — eventually
EPA has set 2015 for deciding if glyphosate should continue to be sold, or should have its use in some way limited.
We know the regulatory process can be woefully slow, even when science is very clear that a pesticide is harming human health. Yet this remains one important route for grassroots efforts. Meanwhile, educate yourself and your friends about the serious threats posed by Monsanto’s biggest seller, and help build the public voice to get rid of it once and for all.
You can spend the extra money to eat organic, but how do you *breathe* organic?
“(Roundup) is out there in significant levels. It is out there consistently,” said Paul Capel, environmental chemist and head of the agricultural chemicals team at the U.S. Geological Survey Office, part of the U.S. Department of Interior.
Capel found that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, was found in every stream sample examined in Mississippi in a two-year period and also in most air samples.
“So people are exposed to it through inhalation,” Capel told Reuters. “This study is one of the first to document the consistent occurrence of this chemical in streams, rain and air throughout the growing season. It is used so heavily and studied so little.”
Though the glyphosate in its original form is not listed by the U.S. EPA as highly toxic when inhaled, it may become a major problem once inside the body. In the presence of human saliva, glyphosate is known to metabolize by mixing with nitrites in the human stomach and forming a new compound known as N-nitrosoglyphosate — a highly toxic substance that can cause tumors.
Standard carcinogenic tests involving Roundup using rats would not detect this effect since rats do not secrete nitrite in their saliva.