New questions about eczema and comorbidities are explored, and old questions about the microbiome are revisited in this week’s health news. Are children with eczema more likely to fracture bones? How does antibiotic treatment in an infant’s first month of life influence the development of eczema? In addition, some very tiny organisms are making some very big news. Has the Covid pandemic influenced the microbiomes of children born between 2020 and 2022? If so, what does this suggest about these children’s future health? Does the gut microbiome factor into depression? What about Parkinson’s? Here are a few links to some of the intriguing developments in the news this week.
Is there a definitive link between eczema and bone fractures? If so, is it increased with the severity of ectopic dermatitis?
Many past studies have noted a strong correlation between ectopic dermatitis and bone fracture. However, the scope of those studies has always been limited, and the data inconclusive. A recent Korean study shows an even stronger link between eczema and fracture, particularly among children who developed eczema in infancy–they are %14 more likely to experience fractures than other children in their age cohort. The link grows even stronger with the severity of atopic dermatitis, with a %23 increase in fracture risk for children with severe eczema. The study’s authors have suggested a possible connection between systemic steroids (not topical steroid treatments), and have also raised the possibility that eczema could be connected to metabolic deficiencies that also influence the rate of fracture. They hope future studies will help scientists understand the nature of this correlation more fully. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/984999
A Possible Connection Between Antibiotics and Lowered Risk of Eczema
The questions raised by the Korean study are particularly interesting when considered alongside another study that establishes a link between early antibiotic treatment and lowered risk of atopic dermatitis. According to the study, which was published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, 20.2% of infants who were given antibiotics in their first two weeks of life developed eczema, as compared with 26.9% of infants who received no antibiotics in that time frame. Among infants who were given antibiotics in their third week of life, 19.8% developed atopic dermatitis later–as opposed to 26.7% of infants who did not. Only 17.5% of infants who were given antibiotics in their fourth week of life went on to develop eczema, compared with 26.5% of infants who did not.
The study’s authors hypothesize that there are specific windows of the immune system’s development, when the microbiome can be influenced externally to increase or decrease the risks of certain disorders.
Could Depression Be a Disorder of the Gut? Another study shows a connection between gut microbiome and depression.
We all know that microbiota influence eczema; could they possibly influence the development of depression? A groundbreaking study suggests that they do. The study looked at several common microbes and compared their populations in people with untreated depression as well as people without a history of depression. It found that some microbes were significantly depleted in depressive subjects as compared to people without depression. At the same time, another family of microbes was overrepresented in people with depression. Depression is a prevalent disorder, and its pathogenesis is still shrouded in mystery; this could be the beginning of an entirely new understanding of the disorder and its treatment.
Abnormal Numbers of Microbial Species in the Gut Found in Parkinson’s Disease Patients
An association has also been found between the gut microbiome and Parkinson’s Disease, a devastating neurodegenerative disorder. An article published this week in Parkinson’s News Today reports that “accumulating research” demonstrates a strong link between Parkinson’s and the gut biome, with more than 30% of gut microbial species found in abnormal numbers in Parkinson’s patients. Specifically, an overabundance of disease-causing microbes were found, which can potentially trigger immune responses that lead to excessive deposits of alpha-synuclein protein in the brains of Parkinson’s patients. While no exact relationship between the microbiome and Parkinson’s has been established, this is certainly timely news–worldwide, rates of Parkinson’s have doubled in the past 25 years.
Have Covid-19 mitigation measures doomed the microbiomes of “Covid babies?”
With the microbiome seemingly playing a role in so many disorders and disease processes, it is natural to question how Covid-mitigating efforts such as quarantines and higher levels of sanitation might affect the microbiome. An article published in The Atlantic this week examines how a “year without germs” might affect the future health of children born during the pandemic.
Some of the researchers interviewed for the article have raised an alarm; these children will have less robust microbiomes, and this will result in a “bolus of kids with asthma and obesity” in coming years. Others have said that it is too early to tell, and still others have predicted no significant differences except insofar as the pandemic has affected families economically; microbiome-related disorders are almost always higher among lower-income people. Whatever your opinion might be, it’s certainly ripe for discussion!
While the old warning about correlation and causation must be taken seriously, all of these studies represent revolutionary potential in the prevention and treatment of many disorders. Stay tuned for the latest discoveries about eczema, as well as other relevant health topics!
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- Zula Elwood