Research News

Microbiome disruptions could explain HIV-exposed babies’ increased risk of morbidity and mortality

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 10:28

It is already known that a reduction in gut microbial richness is the hallmark change of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, but how this dysbiosis is established in the HIV-exposed uninfected infant is poorly understood. A recent cross-sectional study, led by Dr. Grace M. Aldrovandi from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in Los Angeles (USA), suggests that perturbations in the infant gut microbiome may explain the greater risk of morbidity and mortality in uninfected babies born to HIV-positive mothers.

Most children born to HIV-infected women do not acquire HIV infection, but they experience twice the mortality of children born to HIV-negative women. As establishment of a healthy microbiome in infants influences the development of a healthy infant metabolism and immunity, the researchers hypothesized that the perturbation of both the mother’s microbiome and the mother’s breast milk human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) composition by HIV infection may alter the microbiome in HIV-exposed uninfected infants and could account for their increased morbidity and mortality rates. Note that HMOs are the third largest constituent of human milk and are not digested by the infant, therefore acting as a prebiotic that nourishes the infant microbiome.

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An interview with Bernd Schnabl: “Chronic alcohol alters gut microbiota and can lead to bacterial overgrowth”

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 10:24

Recent studies have pointed out the role a dysbiosis in gut microbiota plays in the onset and progression of liver disease. Chronic alcohol consumption is known to be a major disruptor of the microbial community harboured in the intestines and can both cause bacterial alteration, increasing the proportion of harmful bacteria and reducing levels of beneficial bacteria; and also it can provoke an overgrowth of microorganisms, which is associated with liver disease.

Bernd Schnabl is an Associate Professor in Gastroenterology at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, where he investigates precisely the pathogenesis of chronic liver disease. He attended the 5th Gut Microbiota for Health World Summit 2016.

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Report from Mucosal Immunology Course and Symposium in Toronto, Canada

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 10:15

The inaugural Mucosal Immunology Course and Symposium were held in Toronto (Canada) July 27-30, 2016, with specific focus on the microbiota and mucosal immunity in health and disease. The “Principles of Mucosal Immunology” course, held one day prior to the symposium, featured a full day of talks by experts in the field of mucosal immunology. The speakers provided a comprehensive overview of basic mucosal immunology that centered on how bidirectional interactions between the microbiota, epithelium and immune system are critical for determining health and disease. In particular, Greg Sonnenberg from Cornell Medical College (USA), reviewed the emerging role of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in the intestine and emphasized both their protective and tissue repair functions, as well as their contributions to inflammation and disease. While mouse models have provided valuable tools to study ILC populations and their heterogeneity, the need for human studies using standardized methods and controls was highlighted; these studies will allow for a better understanding of protective versus pathogenic cell populations and how we may selectively target these populations as therapies for inflammation-related diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

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NIHR committed to push the pace of research

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 10:10

It takes on average 17 years for a promising medicine, being developed in a laboratory to being patient ready, and approximately 10 years of this is spent within the NIHR research pathway. As part of the wider commitment to a culture of continuous improvement, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is committed to reducing this pathway by 20 months.

Push the Pace has identified what the most effective changes would be to reduce the journey length and they are looking at piloting and then implementing changes already identified. Seven important areas of work are being investigated, involving colleagues from across the NIHR.

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