CHILD Study shows link between IgA and C. difficile bacteria

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Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj (L) & Sarah Bridgman (R)

A new study from AllerGen’s Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study is the first to show an association between early gut immune development and colonization with Clostridium difficile (C. difficile)—a bacteria known to be a risk factor for future allergic disease.

In a study of 47 infants enrolled in the Vancouver and Winnipeg sites of the CHILD Study, the researchers found that infants with the highest levels of the immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibody were 83% less likely to be colonized with C. difficile.

“Colonization of infants with the pathogen C. difficile is on the rise, and over half of the infants (53%) in our study carried the bacteria at three to four months of age,” says Sarah Bridgman, an AllerGen HQP and a Masters student at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“In this study, we found that high fecal IgA— independent of breastfeeding as a main source of the antibody—was associated with reduced C. difficile colonization.”

Bridgman is first author on the paper, which was published online in Microbes and Infection in May 2016. Quantification of C. difficile was conducted at the James Scott laboratory at the University of Toronto by AllerGen HQP Tedd Konya.

In contrast to older children and adults who may develop severe diarrhea and abdominal symptoms from C. difficile, infants are typically asymptomatic to the toxins released by the bacteria. However, early colonization may lead to an increased risk of allergic disease later on.

C. difficile has become a problem, in part because of exposure to antibiotics, which can disrupt the normal gut microbiome,” says the study’s principal author Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj, a professor at the University of Alberta and a CHILD Study investigator.

“Future research by our group will examine the effects of antibiotics on gut microbiota. Eventually, we believe that the CHILD Study will help us to pinpoint specific associations between IgA as an early life intestinal immune marker, gut microbiota development, and later child health, including allergic disease.”