Breast is best for babies at asthma risk

Researchers in Switzerland say they've shown how breastfeeding can reduce a baby's chances of developing respiratory symptoms in those at high risk of asthma.

Infants at high risk of developing asthma could be protected against respiratory symptoms early in life if they're breastfed, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have shown, for the first time, how breastfeeding interacts with a child's asthma-related genetic profile - adding further weight to conclusive evidence that "breast is best".

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

A study of more than 350 babies born at The University Children's Hospital Basel (UKBB) found that those who carried the genes related to asthma risk, had a 27 per cent decreased chance of developing respiratory symptoms after being breastfeed for the first few weeks of their life.

Genes that are associated with asthma risk are located on chromosome 17 and called 17q21. A recent study reported that children who possessed genetic variants on chromosome 17q21 had an increased risk of developing wheeze, when combined with certain environmental exposures.

It is already known that environmental factors have a modifying effect on specific genetic risk, so the aim of this study, presented at the European Respiratory Society's International Congress, was to find out whether this could also be true for breastfeeding, said lead researcher Dr Olga Gorlanova.

She says their study shows that breastfeeding can modify the effect of asthma-related genetic profiles on respiratory symptoms in the first year of life.

"As research in this field progresses, we are understanding more and more about the gene-environment interaction for the development of asthma. Our study sheds light on how this interaction can be modified by breastfeeding. This is the first time that we were able to show the effect of the 17q21 variants on respiratory symptoms during the first year of life, depending on breastfeeding status," she said.

However Dr Gorlanova did acknowledge that their findings must be replicated in further studies.

Source AAP

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