It has been well characterized over past decades that Westernized populations have high rates of allergic disease, particularly infants and children. A range of explanations for this observation have been explored including the role of the infant microbiome and, more recently the maternal microbiome during pregnancy.

Further, it has been proposed that losses of specific bacterial species from our ancestral microbiota may be driving the increase in immune related diseases, and that depletion in the diversity of the gut microbiome may be in part linked to a decrease in dietary fibre intake.

Bringing these ideas together, the Barwon Infant Study (BIS) team discovered that maternal carriage of a specific bacteria, Prevotella copri, during pregnancy strongly predicts the absence of food allergy in the offspring (1). This compelling finding has exciting public health implications, given the dramatic increase in allergic disease and the low rate of Prevotella carriage in the modern world – an organism that is virtually ubiquitous in traditional, non-industrial communities.

This discovery fits well with observations that Prevotella is substantially less abundant in westernized populations than in traditional, non-industrial communities (where infant allergy rates are much lower).

Prevatex will build on the discoveries of the BIS team, and is developing a P. copri based probiotic for maternal use. By augmenting and normalizing the maternal microbiome, we believe that we will offer infants a natural way to reduce the risk of developing food allergies.

  1. Maternal carriage of Prevotella during pregnancy associates with protection against food allergy in the offspring. Vuillermin P, O’Hely M, Collier F et al, Nature Communications. In press.