Gut bacteria linked to anxiety in kids

Gut bacteria might predict a child’s risk of future anxiety, according to a new study.
Researchers believe children with a lower amount of Prevotella when they are one-year-old are more likely to have anxiety-like behaviours, including shyness, when they turn two.
More than 200 children took part in the Barwon Infant Study that tested their poo samples at one-month, six and 12 months of age as well as their behaviours at two years.
They found those with lower instances of the bacteria at 12 months of age were more likely to be shy, sad and showed indications they may be a higher risk of going on to develop childhood anxiety.
Study leader Professor Peter Vuillermin, from Deakin, Barwon Health and MCRI, said the study found less Prevotella in children who had recently taken antibiotics.
“Growing evidence supports the idea that antibiotics, poor diet and other factors in the modern world are leading to the loss of our traditional gut bacteria, and in turn, health problems,” he said.
“There is intense interest in the relationship between gut bacteria and brain development, but most of the evidence has come from experiments in mice. This is one of the first human studies to compare the composition of baby’s gut bacteria to subsequent behavioural outcomes.”
In previous cross-sectional studies Prevotella abundance has been associated with both autism and Parkinson’s disease.
The research team now hope to build further evidence to consider Prevotella as a gut bacteria key to both identifying health risk, and potentially, as an intervention to improve health outcomes.
“One day we could get to the point where we can look at a child’s poo at 12 months, and if they are showing levels of bacteria that put them into a high-risk category for anxiety we can offer an early intervention,” Dr Amy Loughman said.
“This might be a supplement of Prevotella or other bacteria, or it could be in the form of behavioural and family support to bolster their psychosocial environment. But we need to get more research behind us before we can reach that point.”
In the meantime, parents are encouraged to follow Australian dietary guidelines and feed children a diet high in fibre, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and to work with their doctor to minimise the use of antibiotics.