Endocrine News previews ENDO 2017 in Orlando with an overview of the Presidential Plenary session, which focuses on the microbiome in pediatric patients.
The early years of a child’s life is a critical period for the foundation of a healthy outcome. It is during the first two years of childhood that optimal nutrition is crucial as it lowers a child’s morbidity and mortality, reduces the risk of chronic disease, and fosters his or her better development overall. Whether a child is exposed to antibiotics during these early years is also a crucial component of long-term health.
At ENDO 2017 in Orlando, the Presidential Plenary will highlight two scientists dedicated to finding solutions to improving the health of children impacted by dietary challenges and antibiotic exposure. The Presidential Plenary session will focus on “The Influence of the Microbiome in Childhood” and will feature presentations by Martin J. Blaser, MD, professor of Microbiology and the director of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University Langone Medical Center, and Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, director of the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
Early Life Microbiota and Physiologic Development
Blaser’s remarks will highlight his research on “Early Life Microbiota and Physiologic Development.” He gave Endocrine News a preview of his current studies:
“A central feature of mammalian development across an evolutionary time frame is the high fidelity intergenerational transfer of resident microbes. Yet the developing microbiome, crucial in the early life window of development, has limited resilience, and is vulnerable to perturbation. We have shown that early life antibiotic exposures can alter microbiota development with both metabolic and immunological consequences. We have extended these studies to more fully examine both antibiotic and dietary effects. These affect important endocrinologic diseases including obesity and juvenile (type 1) diabetes in susceptible individuals. In total, our work highlights the importance of early events in shaping the microbiome of developing animals, with effects that may not be limited to the current generation.”
The average U.S. child receives about three courses of antibiotics by the age of 2 and 10 courses by the age of 10, according to an article co-authored by Blaser appearing in Science Translational Medicine.
The microbiome research of Blaser and his team of investigators at NYU’s Blaser Lab Group has evolved over the years.
“We began about 30 years ago with studies of Helicobacter pylori, the ancestral major constituent of the human gastric microbiome,” Blaser explains. “This brought us to study the esophagus, skin, and colonic microbiome about 15 years ago.”
The Gut Microbiota and Childhood Undernutrition
Gordon has published extensive research on the global health challenge of childhood undernutrition and will lecture session attendees on “The Gut Microbiota and Childhood Undernutrition.”
Undernutrition is estimated to be linked with 2.7 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Around the globe in 2015, the WHO also estimated that 156 million children under five year were found to be stunted, 50 million were found to be wasted, and 42 million were overweight or obese.
Gordon and fellow researchers have written several studies on the global crisis, notably a June 2016 article in Science. In the review article, the authors wrote that although current therapies have reduced mortality in children with severe disease, the approaches have been less effective in curbing the long-term negative impacts of undernutrition, such as stunting, immune dysfunction, and neurocognitive deficits. They believe this suggests that certain features of host biology are not being adequately repaired, which has led to the thought that healthy growth depends, in part, on normal postnatal development of the gut microbiota and that disruptions in its development may be related to undernutrition.
“Developing effective strategies for sustained repair of microbiota immaturity through food or microbial interventions requires preclinical studies of these mechanisms and modeling of the effects of different rates and routes of repair,” wrote Gordon and his co-authors in Science.
The Presidential Plenary will be held on the first day of ENDO 2017 on April 1.
—Fauntleroy is a freelance writer based in Carmel, Ind., and a regular contributor to Endocrine News. She wrote about improvements in pancreatic cancer outcomes in the November 2016 issue.
A recent review article in Science, co-authored by Jeffrey Gordon, MD, offered the following suggested societal interventions to address childhood undernutrition with microbiota therapies, which includes:
- Educating women about the microbiota and health
- Envisioning the impact of this knowledge and empowerment on child-rearing practices
- Assessing the cultural acceptability of microbiota-directed food products (includes labeling and associated public educational/advertising efforts)
- Defining price points for “affordability” and development of strategies that promote consumer compliance
- Identification of sources of ingredients, and designing manufacturing systems and distribution infrastructures that provide local economic benefit in order to ensure sustainable production of these products
- Ensuring partnerships between governmental, nongovernmental organizations, and other potential stakeholders to enable broad implementation and mitigate risk for investment by industrial partners
Source: “Childhood undernutrition, the gut microbiota, and microbiota-directed therapeutics,” Science, June 24, 2016.