It's the most wonderful time of the year: cold season!
Of course, we are being sarcastic with this one. There is truly nothing wonderful about those persistent cold season coughs and runny noses that seem to go on for weeks - especially when the youngest members of the family are the ones most affected.
A new European study, however, is shedding some light on why some little ones seem to be more resilient than others when it comes to fighting off seasonal sniffles and respiratory bugs. Basically, there is an "ideal microbial composition" associated with respiratory health and the highest resilience - and that composition, the study found, is made up of a wide variety of different bacteria living in the nose. Less of a variety and more bacteria from a certain family, however, was found to be less ideal.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University Children's Hospital of Basel and began when the babies in the study started to show signs (coughing, runny nose, signs of an ear infection, sore throat) of their first respiratory infection. Parents were asked to contact researchers immediately, and upon arrival, they took nasal swabs. They returned three weeks later and repeated the swabs. At that point, they analyzed the swabs by testing for the presence of viruses - such as the 'common cold', and a number of different bacteria.
They found that babies who were free of symptoms by the three-week swab were more likely to have the variety of bacteria in their noses, and a microbiota (which refers to the types and numbers of these bacteria) that was not overrun by bacteria from a particular family - specifically, the Moraxellaceae or Streptococcaceae family.
"We are beginning to understand that the types and numbers of these bacteria, what we refer to as the microbiota, can influence our respiratory health," said Roland P. Neumann, one of the researchers of the study.
Neumann's team of researchers added that although their findings do not provide a solution to help babies recover more quickly from illnesses, they did help to better understand the importance of the bacteria living in the respiratory tract - particularly the part they play in contributing to infections and chronic conditions such as asthma.