Parents' germs could help protect newborns from allergies, asthma

Desiree Burns
November 18, 2018

Our bodies develop antibodies to fight infections, but MacGinnitie said IgE antibodies are often produced in response to harmless substances - which is why they're closely associated with allergies.

The current study involved 128 babies whose mothers were classified into three groups depending on how they cleaned the pacifiers used by their infants. Researchers compared the babies' IgE levels at birth, six months, and 18 months for each cleaning method.

Although that could change after a new study has found that mothers who clean their kid's pacifier with their saliva lower the number of allergy-causing proteins on the piece.

New research being presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting highlights the association between parental sucking on a pacifier and a lower allergic response among young children.

The study corroborates results from a previous study published by investigators at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden in 2013, which also suggested that parental sucking of infants pacifiers may reduce the risk of allergy development, "possibly via immune stimulation by microbes transferred to the infant via the parent's saliva", according to the authors.

"The idea is that the microbes you're exposed to in infancy can affect your immune system's development later on in life", Dr. Eliane Abou-Jaoude says.

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"There are lots of commensal or good bacteria in the microbiome that may really help your baby develop a tolerance to it as they age", notes Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of Seattle Children's Hospital.

Although Zoratti et al's study could not conclude whether lower IgE production seen among children whose parents suck on their pacifiers continued into later years, the Gothenburg study saw continued protection against eczema through 36 months (HR.51; P=.04).

Since they only tracked the babies for 18 months, they have no way of knowing if their antibody levels continue to be lower into early childhood and beyond.

Of the 58% who reported their child now using a dummy, 12% said the parents sucked the pacifier to clean it.

"From our data, we can tell that the children whose pacifiers were cleaned by their parents sucking on the pacifier, those children had lower IgE levels around 10 months of age through 18 months of age". "But that doesn't mean that if you have high IgE, you're definitely going to have allergies". MacGinnitie said that early exposure to some foods, for example, may protect against allergies. Additional analyses indicated the differences were first seen at about 10 months. But he added that, for most parents, "that's probably not realistic".

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