Science & Tech

Scientists find Covid 'pandemic babies' have one specific trait in common

Scientists find Covid 'pandemic babies' have one specific trait in common
Scientists find fathers' brains shrink slightly when their babies are born
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Scientists have discovered that Covid-19 “pandemic babies” appear to have developed a “protection” against allergies that is unique to them.

The global pandemic was a bizarre and scary time in history that brought some unexpected consequences, not least former health secretary Matt Hancock going into the I’m a Celebrity jungle.

Now, experts have discovered that social distancing rules have had a significant difference in the gut ecosystem of babies born at the time, compared to those born pre-pandemic that may help protect them against developing allergies.

In a study published in the journal Allergy, Irish researchers found that lockdown restrictions led to babies having more beneficial microbes in their gut that are acquired after birth from their mother.

Samples of faeces from 351 babies, who were born during the first three months of the pandemic, were compared with a group born pre-pandemic. The samples were collected at six months, 12 months and 24 months old. Allergy tests were then performed at one and two years old. Questionnaires were also issued to parents to understand diet, home environment and health.

The results found that only around five per cent of the pandemic babies had developed an allergy to food by age one, while 22.8 per cent in the pre-COVID group had.

They believe this could be down to lower rates of infection and illness, leading to less antibiotic use – by age one, 17 per cent of lockdown babies had required antibiotics, compared to 80 per cent of those pre-pandemic. In addition, the increased duration of breastfeeding is thought to have had an impact.

Professor Jonathan Hourihane, joint senior study author and consultant paediatrician at Children’s Health Ireland Temple Street, explained: “This study offers a new perspective on the impact of social isolation in early life on the gut microbiome.

“Notably, the lower allergy rates among newborns during the lockdown could highlight the impact of lifestyle and environmental factors, such as frequent antibiotic use, on the rise of allergic diseases.

“We hope to re-examine these children when they are five years old to see if there are longer-term impacts of these interesting changes in early gut microbiome.”

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