Children with High Genetic Risk for Type 1 Diabetes Have Distinct Gut Microbiomes

Children with High Genetic Risk for Type 1 Diabetes Have Distinct Gut Microbiomes When Compared to Those at Lower Risk

-Shahd Husein

A new study published in Nature Communications examined the link between gut microbiomes and the genetic risk of type 1 diabetes development in children. Researchers from Linköping University in Sweden and the University of Florida found that children with a higher genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes had distinct gut microbiomes from children at lower risk of developing the disease.

To study this phenomenon, the authors looked to the All Babies in Southeast Sweden (ABIS) study, a biobank that houses samples from over 17,000 children from that region born between October 1st, 1997 through October 1st, 1999. ABIS was formed to study the factors behind the development of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes in children; it followed participants from as early as birth, according to a report in Health Europa

For this study, the stool samples of 403 individuals were selected. The subjects themselves either had a high or low genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes. 

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The researchers reported that an individual’s genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes is “associated with distinct changes in the gut microbiome.”

Certain bacteria, such as bacterial genera Intestinibacter and Romboutsia, were typically found in individuals with lower genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes, according to a report in News Medical Life Sciences. Other bacterial species were said to have been completely absent in children at high genetic risk of developing the disease.

“This is very interesting, as this could mean that certain species have protective effects and may be useful in future treatment to prevent autoimmune diseases … [and] that certain species cannot survive in individuals with high genetic risk,” said Professor Johnny Ludvigsson of Linköping University, one of the study’s researchers.

The researchers recommended probiotics as a potential strategy for helping to create changes in one’s gut flora, which may potentially prevent or improve diseases like type 1 diabetes. The News Medical Life Sciences report noted that the authors suggested prebiotic supplementation as a “novel, inexpensive, low-risk treatment addition for T1D that may improve glycemic control.”

Other studies have produced similar findings. Earlier this year, a JDRF-funded project concluded that variations in antibody responses to gut microbiomes were seen in children with type 1 diabetes. Also, a 2018 study found strong associations between gut microbiota and its ability to trigger type 1 diabetes in both humans and animals. 

The mechanisms for the onset of type 1 diabetes are complex and not yet fully understood. Human leukocyte antigens, or HLA genes, are generally predictors of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, but environmental factors like gut microbiomes play an equally important role, reports Medical News Today.

While this research sheds light on the potential factors associated with type 1 diabetes development, the authors are hoping for further analysis that would examine the ways in which gut microbiomes and genetics trigger type 1 diabetes, says Health Europa. 

It should be noted that while probiotic use is widespread, probiotics are not regulated in the United States as strictly as drugs. An FDA inspection of more than 650 facilities that produce dietary supplements like probiotics found that more than 50 percent of the facilities had violations, according to a New York Times report; those violations included issues of purity, strength, and mislabeling of the supplements. That report also mentions that probiotic use could prove harmful in some cases for individuals whose autoimmune systems are compromised. Please consult with your health care provider before beginning probiotic therapy.

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