Early last month, I read an abstract of a paper that demonstrated that formula feeding predisposes neonatal piglets to Clostridum difficile (CD) infection.[i] (CD is a bacterial infection of the gut that causes profound diarrhea, inflammation of the gut, and if severe enough, can cause death.) The scientists examined the feces of animals that were formula-fed (the formula was bovine milk based) and compared the bacterial content to piglets who were normally suckled. Even prior to purposely infecting the second group of formula-fed piglets with C.diff, they found markedly higher level of the bacteria in the stool. The suckling piglets carried 3X less CD. They conclude, “Formula feeding predisposes to CD colonisation earlier as compared to suckling piglets….”
Yesterday was reviewing some abstracts I’d collected, came across that one again, and got to wondering if there were any such studies in human babies. I came across a 2013 policy statement from the journal, Pediatrics, that looks at the greatly increased rates of C.diff infections in hospitalized children.[ii] While vaginal delivery, premature rupture of membranes or administration of antimicrobial agents do not lead to more CD infection in neonates, hospitalization does (the bacteria is easily transmitted) and, yes…”Breastfed infants have lower carriage rates than do formula-fed infants.”
I then, coincidentally, read another just-published article from my stack, entitled, “Wild gut microbiota protect from disease.”[iii] The authors point to recent research comparing the gut flora of wild and lab mice. While genetically the animals were the same, there were significant differences in their microbiota. Not only did bacterial species differ, but the wild mice had much greater diversity. Back to the above discussion of breast-versus-formula feeding leading to a greater propensity for CD infection: what was really remarkable is that when infected with Influenza A virus, only 17% of the lab mice lived while 92% of the wild mice survived. HOLY COW. But wait – there’s more. In a study of colon cancer in wild versus lab mice, the wild had fewer and smaller tumors, less inflammation and fewer metastases. To summarize, “This study shows that the WildR mouse microbiota enhances fitness…”
Remember my post about rewilding? Looks like “going native” is a wise idea to reduce the risk of contracting a wide variety of illnesses.
[ii] Clostridium difficile Infection in Infants and Children. COMMITTEE ON INFECTIOUS DISEASES. Pediatrics Jan 2013, 131 (1) 196-200; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2992
[iii] Gazzaniga, FS, Kasper, DL. Wild gut microbiota protect from disease. Cell Research. doi:10.1038/cr.2017.150