Ratio of Klebsiella/Bifidobacterium in early life correlates with later development of paediatric allergy

J.S.Y. Low, S.E. Soh, Y.K. Lee, K.Y.C. Kwek, J.D. Holbrook, E.M. Van der Beek, L.P. Shek, A.E.N. Goh, O.H. Teoh, K.M. Godfrey, Y.S. Chong, J. Knol, C. Lay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Several studies have reported that intestinal microbial colonisation patterns differ between non-allergic and allergic infants. However, the microbial signature underlying the pathogenesis of allergies remains unclear. We aim to gain insight into the development of the intestinal microbiota of healthy infants and infants who develop allergy in early life, and identify potential microbiota biomarkers of later allergic disease. Using a case-control design in a Chinese sub-cohort of a Singaporean birth cohort (GUSTO), we utilised 16S rRNA gene sequencing to assess intestinal microbial composition and diversity of 21 allergic and 18 healthy infants at 3 weeks, 3 months and 6 months of age, and correlated the microbiota with allergy at ages 18 and 36 months. Pronounced differences in intestinal microbiota composition between allergic and healthy infants were observed at 3 months of age. The intestine of healthy infants was colonised with higher abundance of commensal Bifidobacterium. Conversely, Klebsiella, an opportunistic pathogen, was significantly enriched in the allergic infants. Interestingly, infants with a high Klebsiella/Bifidobacterium (K/B) ratio (above the population median K/B ratio) at age 3 months had an odds ratio of developing allergy by 3 years of age of 9.00 (95% confidence interval 1.46-55.50) compared to those with low K/B ratio. This study demonstrated a relationship between the ratio of genera Klebsiella and Bifidobacterium during early infancy and development of paediatric allergy in childhood. Our study postulates that an elevated K/B ratio in early infancy could be a potential indicator of an increased risk of allergy development. This line of research might enable future intervention strategies in early life to prevent or treat allergy. Our study provides new insights into microbial signatures associated with childhood allergy, in particular, suggests that an elevated K/B ratio could be a potential early-life microbiota biomarker of allergic disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-695
JournalBeneficial Microbes
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • 16S rRNA
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Bifidobacterium spp
  • Eczema
  • Enterobacteriaceae


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