Editors' ChoiceHost-Microbe Interactions

Bugs in the gut dictate food allergy

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Science Signaling  23 Jul 2019:
Vol. 12, Issue 591, eaay7815
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aay7815

Bacteriotherapy that stimulates gut-resident regulatory T cells may suppress food allergies.

Eggs, shellfish, peanuts—scary words for those with food allergies, which commonly present in the first years of life. What causes food allergy is unclear, but it is associated with an altered composition of the gut microbiome. Abdel-Gadir et al. discovered how “bacteriotherapy” can suppress food allergy in mice and therefore may be beneficial to afflicted patients. Analysis of fecal bacteria from infants and model mice with food allergy compared with that from unafflicted counterparts revealed heightened T helper type 2 (TH2) cell–like activity against commensal bacteria and against a common food allergy trigger, chicken egg ovalbumin (OVA). In contrast with that from otherwise healthy infants, fecal microbiota transplant from infants with a diagnosed food allergy into germ-free mice failed to prevent an anaphylactic response to OVA. However, administering a human-origin Clostridiales cluster alone or together with Subdoligranulum variabile to mice suppressed TH2 cell activity and induced regulatory T (Treg) cells to express the transcription factor ROR-γt, (a protein that was deficient in cells from untreated mice and infants with food allergy) and conferred protection to OVA. Depletion of Treg cells or deletion of Treg cell–specific Rorc, which encodes ROR-γt, prevented the protective effects. These findings reveal some of the signaling and cell types involved in food allergy and suggest that bacteriotherapy might be beneficial to patients. It is just starting to be appreciated how important and widely relevant commensal microbiota are to human health. As ongoing research reveals the biochemical and molecular mechanisms behind the tissue-specific and organism-wide roles of commensal microbiota—and how their composition is regulated (see Yardeni et al.)—their clinical potential for patients with various conditions, from metabolic and neurological disorders to allergies and cancer, may be harnessed.

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