C. difficile in Infancy Could Cause Allergic Diseases in Childhood

JULY 25, 2017
Rachel Lutz
c. difficile in infantsDeveloping Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection or colonization during infancy increased the risk for developing allergic diseases later in childhood, per a new report.

Researchers from Gachon University in Incheon, Korea, studied 65 infant patients aged 1 to 12 months to determine the relationship between infant C. difficile infection and allergic diseases developed later in childhood. The study authors described this relationship as present, but unclear. Participants had to have had either a change in bowel habits or diarrhea for more than 2 weeks as their main symptom to be included in the study.

The infants underwent diagnostic testing while investigators collected data from medical records including sex, age, mode of delivery, gestational age, birth weight, admission history to the NICU, how long they were breastfeeding, maternal age at delivery, birth order, exposure to antibiotics (defined as more than three consecutive days on oral antibiotics), and eosinophil count.

The history of allergic diseases was collected after a 2-year period via parental questionnaires. The investigators also recorded whether asthma had been diagnosed by a doctor or treated in the past 12 months, and used the same method to document atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies.

The researchers reported that one-third of the infants included in the study were diagnosed with C. difficile infection or colonization. There were no significant differences among the patients in regards to the data collected by the researchers, except antibiotic exposure.

Between ages 2 and 5, 12 infants had parent-reported asthma and 6 had allergic rhinitis, while 6 infants had atopic dermatitis and food allergy appeared in 3 infants (1 soy allergy and 2 egg allergies). The researchers wrote that C. difficile infection or colonization may be associated with a higher risk of at least one allergic disease, but that the increased risk of asthma, allergic rhinitis, or atopic dermatitis was not statistically significant.

“This is one of the few studies that have shown that CDCI at ages 1 to 12 months after settlement of normal flora in the gastrointestinal tract could influence the development of allergic diseases during early childhood, which might partially explain the effect of the gastrointestinal microbiota on allergic diseases,” the study authors concluded.

Researchers admit that further studies are needed to confirm the effects of C. difficile infection or colonization on the development of allergic diseases, especially ones involving larger cohorts and longer follow-ups. Additionally, determining how the diverse microbiota could influence the responses in infants will be a key in the future to learning more about this relationship.

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