Childhood Leukaemia linked to strength of microbiome

Childhood Leukaemia linked to strength of microbiome

Childhood leukaemia is the result of a two-step process, according to a meta-analysis by Professor Mel Greaves from the Institute of Cancer Research in London.

First, it seems there has to be a genetic change in the foetus producing a leukaemia positive ‘clone’. However, even then, less that one per cent of children with this change develop leukaemia and Greaves believes the defining factor is a lack of diversity and volume in the commensal (good) bacteria in the gut. 

Professor Greaves believes this second step is caused by a lack of infection in our increasingly sanitised world.

In Professor Greaves’ studies (1) he noted that Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) is particularly prevalent in affluent societies. And he felt the sanitised environment and a lack of helpful infection was the most significant risk issue for ALL. In particular, Greaves noted that early infection could be protective and that a lack of exposure to infection was an important difference for an increased risk of developing childhood leukaemia.

In a part of the research on identical twins, according to Greaves, both twins had the original genetic change but the second step only occurred in one child following infection or, rather, a lack of it. Greaves said he had spent over 40 years researching ALL and said that from his studies it is clear that its causes are biological.

Chris Woollams, founder of CANCERactive and a former Oxford University Biochemist said, ”What we see here is, in fact, now being found in illnesses from Alzheimer’s to Colorectal cancer. Gut bacteria produce messages and chemicals. While their chemical by-products can be helpful or harmful, their messages can actually control your DNA and its messages. We also know that infants have very acidic guts that allow them to take on helpful bacteria while keeping pathogens at bay, but only in the early stages of their lives. After breast feeding finishes, this acid protection is lost. So it’s imperative that mums breast-feed their children for as long as possible.Infants develop a gut micro biome with many species of bacteria and many strains of those species. Infection is one way of adding these bacterial types.

But it’s not just infection that controls the final make-up of the gut bacteria. Young children are especially prone to damage from drugs like antibiotics. We learned recently that just one round of antibiotics can make certain bacterial strains extinct in the gut. So infection may have given the child protection, but a drug may take it away.

Go to: Take antibiotics and your gut never recovers

Poor diet would be another obvious determining factor; one child might eat lots of soluble fibre and vegetables, the twin might eat more sugar. And then there’s also research that EMFs can affect gut bacteria too (2). One twin might spend more time playing games on their pc or tablet; or their bed might have great EMF influence.

The double-step process of Professor Greaves is totally plausible and he should be praised for his tireless work. But infection is not the only factor in having - or not having - protective bacterial strains in a child’s body."

Childhood ALL rates per thousand children are increasing by 1% per year.




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