“Pandemic children” show “amazing” biological changes “Pandemic children” show “amazing” biological changes

“Pandemic children” show “amazing” biological changes

“Pandemic children” show “amazing” biological changes

A study found that lockdowns during the “Covid-19” pandemic led to two “surprising” changes in children’s bodies that may protect them from diseases and allergies.

Researchers from University College Cork in Ireland found that children born during the global lockdown during the height of the “Covid-19” pandemic had an altered gut microbiome (the ecosystem of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the intestines that aid digestion), destroying harmful bacteria. It helps control the immune system.

The researchers revealed that this led to “Covid children” having lower-than-expected rates of allergic conditions, such as food allergies, compared to pre-pandemic children. They also require fewer antibiotics to treat diseases.

The researchers analyzed stool samples from 351 Irish children born in the first three months of the pandemic, between March and May 2020, and compared them with samples from children born before the pandemic.

Online questionnaires were used to collect information on diet, home environment, and health to account for variables.

Stool samples were collected at six, 12, and 24 months of age, and allergy testing was performed at 12 and 24 months.

It turns out that newborn "Covid babies" have more good bacteria acquired from their mothers after birth, which can serve as a defense against allergic diseases.

Children born during the pandemic had lower allergy rates, with about 5% of “Covid children” developing food allergies at the age of one year, compared to 22.8% in pre-Covid-19 children.

The researchers said that mothers transferred beneficial microbes to their children during pregnancy, and those children acquired additional microbes from the environment after birth.

The study also found that babies born during lockdowns had fewer infections because they were not exposed to germs and bacteria.

This means they need fewer antibiotics - which kill good bacteria - leading to an improved microbiome.

Children who were subjected to quarantine were also breastfed for a longer period, which provided them with additional benefits.

Among the “COVID babies,” only 17% required an antibiotic at one year of age. In the pre-pandemic group, 80% of children had taken antibiotics by 12 months.

Liam O'Mahony, professor of immunology at University College Cork, said this was a "striking finding, and is associated with higher levels of beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria."

Professor Jonathan Hourihan, Consultant Paediatrician at Children's Health Ireland Temple Street Hospital and co-lead author of the study, said: “This study provides a new perspective on the impact of early life social isolation on the gut microbiome. It is noteworthy that allergy rates among newborns during lockdown have decreased. "It could highlight the influence of lifestyle and environmental factors, such as frequent use of antibiotics, on the emergence of allergic diseases."

The researchers hope to re-examine the children when they are five years old to see if there are any long-term effects of early changes in the gut microbiome.

The study was published in the journal Allergy.

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