From the Journals

Infections within first year of life predicted IBD

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Study adds to IBD understanding

Understanding and exploring factors that could impact inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) development is imperative. This study by Bernstein et al. evaluated whether environmental factors in the first year of life may impact subsequent diagnosis of IBD using population-based cohort data with robust and detailed health information. Maternal history of IBD was the most predictive factor in development of IBD, further evidence of a genetic component to disease pathogenesis. However, environmental factors such as high socioeconomic status within the first year of life were predictive of diagnosis of IBD later in life, possibly lending further support to the “hygiene hypothesis.”

Also, significant infections identified in the clinical setting or requiring hospitalization were predictive of subsequent IBD diagnosis. This is particularly interesting as gut microbiome perturbations increasingly take the stage as a possible pathway of significance in IBD. Could infection within the first year of life or the subsequent antibiotic use required affect the gut microbiome so significantly and perhaps permanently to affect development of later childhood or adult IBD?

Dr. Sara Horst of Vanderbilt University

Dr. Sara Horst

While these are associations at a population-based level and not clear-cut causation, much can be considered for future research directions. Identifying high-risk patients extremely early in life may be key to further understand the complex interplay of genetic susceptibility and environmental influence. Whether any of these factors are modifiable will be a question that will only continue to gain importance as global rates of IBD continue to increase.

Sara Horst, MD, MPH, is an associate professor of medicine in the department of gastroenterology, hepatology, and medicine at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. She has consulted for Janssen, UCB, and Boehringer Ingelheim.



Infections during the first year of life were a significant risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease throughout the lifespan but especially prior to the age of 10 years, according to the findings of a large population-based study.

It remains unclear whether the risk reflects infections in themselves or the use of antibiotic therapy, wrote Charles N. Bernstein, MD, of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, and associates. Infections did not appear to be a proxy for immunodeficiency disorders, which were similarly infrequent among cases and controls, they noted. Limiting antibiotic usage, while desirable, would be difficult to do for infections as serious as many in the study. Hence, they suggested research to determine “exactly what antibiotic intake does to infant gut microflora or intestinal or systemic immune responses,” and whether giving probiotics or prebiotics after antibiotic therapy helps attenuate the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other autoimmune disorders. The findings were published in Gastroenterology.

IBD is probably multifactorial, but specific causal factors remain unclear. Based on mounting evidence for the role of gut dysbiosis, the researchers explored whether IBD is associated with higher rates of infections and other critical events during the neonatal period and the first year of life by comparing 825 patients with IBD and 5,999 controls matched by age, sex, and area of residence. The data source was the University of Manitoba IBD Epidemiology Database, which includes all Manitobans diagnosed with IBD from 1984 to 2010. The researchers also compared patients with 1,740 unaffected siblings.

Gastrointestinal infections, gastrointestinal disease, and abdominal pain during the first year of life did not predict subsequent IBD. Maternal IBD was the strongest risk factor (odds ratio, 4.5; 95% confidence interval, 3.1-6.7). Among neonatal events, the only significant risk factor was being in the highest versus the lowest socioeconomic quintile (OR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.01-1.79). This association persisted during the first year of life.

Infections during the first year of life were a significant risk factor for IBD before age 10 (OR, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.1-8.8) and age 20 years (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.2-2.2) in the population-based analysis. In contrast, patients and their unaffected siblings had similar rates of infection during early life. The study may have missed differences in exposures between these groups, or perhaps patients lack certain protective genes possessed by healthy siblings, the researchers wrote.

Numbers of antibiotic prescriptions during the first year and the first decade of life did not significantly differ between 33 cases and 270 controls with available data. However, there was a trend toward more antibiotics prescribed to patients versus controls.

“Together with our past reports that neither cesarean section birth nor antenatal or perinatal maternal use of antibiotics predict ultimate development of IBD, it seems that neonatal changes to the microbiome are subsumed by those occurring in the first year of life,” the investigators concluded. They recommended studying the infant gut microbiome before and for several months after infections and antibiotic exposure to determine which shifts in microbiota predict IBD onset.

The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy provided access to the Population Health Research Data Repository. Dr. Bernstein is supported by the Bingham Chair in Gastroenterology. He reported ties to AbbVie Canada, Ferring Canada, Janssen Canada, Shire Canada, Takeda Canada, Pfizer Canada, Napo Pharmaceuticals, 4D Pharma, and Mylan.

SOURCE: Bernstein CN et al. Gastroenterology. 2019 Feb 14. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.02.004.

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