Researchers dig for answers in dirty diapers

WINNIPEG — What comes out of a baby, just might be as important as what goes in, especially when it comes to figuring out why a rising number of children are growing up with food allergies.

Scientists with the University of Manitoba and The Children’s Hospital Research Institute say a study into the fecal matter taken from the dirty diapers of 166 kids has determined that those with fewer numbers of  bacteria were more likely to develop food sensitivities, and potentially allergies, by the time they were one.

Gut bacteria helps prevent disease, and research is now looking at everything from the rise in c-sections, to increasingly sterile environments as contributing factors to the drop in bacteria and startling rise in allergies.

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“If we are able to learn and understand that a certain mix of gut bacteria is increasing risk of food alergies, than maybe we can design a probiotic that will rebalance the gut flora in babies,” said research Meghan Azad.

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The analysis is part of a larger allergy study of 3, 500 Canadians.

Colette Raymond’s son, Leo, doesn’t have any food allergies, but has been participating in it since birth.  “I hope it solves some of the mysteries around pediatric allergies,” said Raymond.

Researchers have collected blood samples from both her and her son, plus dust samples from their home.  She also records when he is sick, if he gets a cold, if he’s ever prescribed medication.

“Parenting, stress, pollution, chemicals in your home, all of this might be contributing,” said Azad.  “We are trying to really capture every element of genetics and the environment to understand what’s causing the allergy.”

Dugald mom, Rita Vaags, hopes it leads to some answers.  Her son is deathly allergic to at least a dozen foods. While he is not part of the study, she has been searching for answers for years.

“This gives me hope that there is going to be a checklist for parents so they can safeguard their kids,” said Vaags.

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