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Nasal bacteria in babies may hold clue to fight against common cold

Wednesday 5th December 2018
New research has revealed a link between bacteria levels in babies noses and their ability to fight off colds.
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New research has revealed that babies who have a wide variety of bacteria in their nose at birth are more likely to make a swift recovery the first time they catch a cold. 

Researchers at the University Children's Hospital in Basel, Switzerland took swabs from 167 babies at the first sign they were developing a cold and compared with repeat swabs three weeks later, by which time some had recovered much faster than others. 

On average, the colds lasted two weeks, but those with less bacteria in their noses to start with frequently suffered for three weeks and more.

Published by ERJ Open Research, the study noted that the faster recoveries were those with a wider range of bacteria from the Moraxellaceae or Streptococcaceae family. This backs up previous research indicating a link between the presence of bacteria and respiratory disease. 

Among the possible discoveries the research may lead to is an explanation of why children who have a lot of colds in infancy are more likely to go on to develop asthma. 

The research factored in other influences on respiratory health, including the time of year and age at which the first cold occurred, the levels of exposure to other children through nursery attendance or having siblings, and whether they were regularly exposed to smoking.

Dr Roland Neumann from the hospital said: "The respiratory tract is home to a wide variety of bacteria and we are beginning to understand that the types and numbers of these bacteria - what we refer to as the microbiota - can influence our respiratory health."

Two possible explanations for a causal link are that having certain kinds of bacteria increases inflammation and worsens symptoms, and that a wider range of bacteria offers better protection against viral respiratory infection. 

Many ideas exist about what increases or decreases the risk of getting a cold.

Research has poured cold water on some of the most common ideas, such as the notion that taking a lot of vitamin C would make a major difference.

Written by Martin Lambert

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