While you want to get rid of Baby’s poo as quickly as possible, researchers in Canada see dirty diapers as valuable clues for determining risk factors of allergies and asthma. In a new $12 million country-wide study, researchers from five universities will take a close look at the dirty diapers of 5,000 babies. That’s a lot of baby poop! They’ll map the DNA of the bacteria in the babies stool in hopes of determining if environmental factors, C-sections or antibiotic use increase a child’s risk of allergies or asthma.

A 2007 study found that children who went on antibiotics four or more times before their first birthday have a 30 percent higher risk of developing asthma. This new study, the largest of its kind, will look at the association between antibiotics and good stomach bacteria to see if antibiotics may negatively affect immune systems, leading to allergies or asthma. Previous research has also shown an association between a higher risk of asthma and C-section births.

Researchers will start with pregnant mothers in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto, and they’ll begin looking at the baby’s stool samples at 3 months old. One group of 2,500 will be followed until their first birthday, while the other half of the participants will be a part of the study for five years. Information on the mothers’ diets when breastfeeding, other baby foods given, sleeping patterns, the baby’s weight and neurodevelopment will also be recorded.

The findings could have a big impact on how health professions and parents treat early illnesses and raise their children, influencing the health of future generations on a worldwide scale.

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