Gut Microbiome Archaea May Influence Childhood Asthma Risk

Archaea human intestine prokaryote Methanobrevibacter smithii
Methanosphaera stadtmanae was significantly less frequent and in lower abundance in fecal samples of children with asthma compared with children without asthma.

Higher levels of the archaea Methanosphaera stadtmanae DNA in feces were significantly associated with a lower risk for asthma in children, according to the results of a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Fecal samples from school-aged children within the Dutch KOALA Birth Cohort Study were analyzed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction to quantify the levels of DNA from M stadtmanae and Methanobrevibacter smithii. Associations between the presence or absence of each archaeal species and parent-reported asthma at 6 to 10 years of age were examined. Secondary outcomes were questionnaire-reported eczema, total serum immunoglobulin E levels, sensitization to aeroallergens and food allergens, and lung function.

Among the 1432 requests for fecal samples, 672 samples were received. Of the samples received, those with transport times >4 days were excluded. Ultimately, 472 samples were analyzed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction.

M stadtmanae and M smithii were detectable in 8.3% and 78.2% of samples, respectively. Overall, the presence of M stadtmanae was associated with a lower risk for asthma at 6 to 10 years of age. However, no significant interaction was found between M stadtmanae exposure and parental asthma history.

M stadtmanae appeared to be associated with a slightly lower likelihood of eczema and aeroallergen and food allergen sensitization, but these associations did not reach statistical significance. There were no significant associations between M smithii and any outcome.

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The study authors wrote, “Due to the low prevalence of M stadtmanae and cross-sectional study design, our results should be interpreted with caution.” They added, “Although bacterial species not examined in our analysis might confound this association, we speculate that a mechanistic link between M stadtmanae and allergic disease appears plausible.”


Barnett D, Mommers M, Penders J, Arts ICW, Thijs C. Intestinal archaea inversely associated with childhood asthma [published online February 20, 2019]. J Allergy Clin Immunol. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2019.02.009