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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2012, Article ID 932072, 9 pages
Review Article

Perinatal Programming of Asthma: The Role of Gut Microbiota

Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405 87th Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G IC9

Received 5 July 2011; Accepted 14 September 2011

Academic Editor: Kuender D. Yang

Copyright © 2012 Meghan B. Azad and Anita L. Kozyrskyj. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Perinatal programming, a dominant theory for the origins of cardiovascular disease, proposes that environmental stimuli influence developmental pathways during critical periods of prenatal and postnatal development, inducing permanent changes in metabolism. In this paper, we present evidence for the perinatal programming of asthma via the intestinal microbiome. While epigenetic mechanisms continue to provide new explanations for the programming hypothesis of asthma development, it is increasingly apparent that the intestinal microbiota plays an independent and potentially interactive role. Commensal gut bacteria are essential to immune system development, and exposures disrupting the infant gut microbiota have been linked to asthma. This paper summarizes the recent findings that implicate caesarean delivery, breastfeeding, perinatal stress, probiotics, and antibiotics as modifiers of infant gut microbiota in the development of asthma.