Growing up on a farm is associated with an asthma-protective effect, but the mechanisms underlying this effect are largely unknown. In the Protection against Allergy: Study in Rural Environments (PASTURE) birth cohort, we modeled maturation using 16S rRNA sequence data of the human gut microbiome in infants from 2 to 12 months of age. The estimated microbiome age (EMA) in 12-month-old infants was associated with previous farm exposure (beta = 0.27 (0.12-0.43), P = 0.001, n = 618) and reduced risk of asthma at school age (odds ratio (OR) = 0.72 (0.56-0.93), P = 0.011). EMA mediated the protective farm effect by 19%. In a nested case-control sample (n = 138), we found inverse associations of asthma with the measured level of fecal butyrate (OR = 0.28 (0.09-0.91), P = 0.034), bacterial taxa that predict butyrate production (OR = 0.38 (0.17-0.84), P = 0.017) and the relative abundance of the gene encoding butyryl-coenzyme A (CoA):acetate-CoA-transferase, a major enzyme in butyrate metabolism (OR = 0.43 (0.19-0.97), P = 0.042). The gut microbiome may contribute to asthma protection through metabolites, supporting the concept of a gut-lung axis in humans.Growing up in the rich microbial environment of a farm strongly influences the maturation of the gut microbiome in the first year of life, which helps protect against the development of asthma in children.
Institute(s)Institute of Asthma and Allergy Prevention (IAP)
GrantsScottish Government's Rural and Environment Sciences and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF; project German Center for Lung Research (DZL)) European Research Council European Commission