Researchers are finding that imbalances in the gut microbiome can be linked to many diseases, especially autoimmune diseases like type I diabetes. A study called The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) was formed to test what environmental factors can trigger type I diabetes in young children that are genetically at-risk for the disease.
In a study published by Diabetes Care, researchers working on the TEDDY study collected fecal samples from infants,at centers located in Finland, Sweden, Germany, Colorado, Washington state, and Georgia/Florida. The samples were collected monthly, and were tested on factors including age, sex, delivery method, early feeding, and later diet.
The results of the study showed that young type I diabetes at-risk children have specific patterns of microbiome colonization per study site. In other words, there was a significant geographical association with diversity of gut bacteria. Finland, which has the highest incidence of type I diabetes, had relatively low microbiome diversity and significantly higher abundances of Bacteroides and Veillonella and a lower abundance of traditional infant microbiome bacteria like Bifidobacterium. Interestingly, while there were intracontinental similarities between microbiomes, geography did not appear to be a dominant factor. For example, Swedish microbiomes were more similar to those from Washington state than from Finaland..
These results are among the first published from the TEDDY study, from which there should be significant discoveries. For now, it appears the microbiome may play a role in the incidence of diabetes, but as is always the case, until an actual mechanism is proven it is too early to draw further conclusions.