SyMBIOTA (Synergy in Microbiota Research)

The intestinal microbiota, the “good bacteria,” in the infant’s gut play a crucial role in the maturation of the immune system. Alteration of microbiota during early life has the potential to cause disease later in childhood, as evidenced by reduced levels of bifidobacteria and increased levels of C. difficile in the microbiota of infants that develop atopic disease (allergy and asthma) as children. Thus, understanding the environmental determinants of infant microbiota is an important priority in child health research.

The goal of the SyMBIOTA program is to investigate these environmental determinants.

The two main objectives of the program are to determine:

  • if antibiotic use during infancy alters intestinal microbiota (and whether this effect is synergistic with mode of delivery and infant diet); and
  • whether antibiotic-induced disruption of infant gut microbiota is associated with the development of atopic and metabolic disease in children.

SyMBIOTA employs AllerGen’s Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study as a research platform. For this sub-study, mode of delivery and infant exposures during the birth will be extracted from hospital records. Maternal exposures during pregnancy and type of infant feeding will be obtained from parent report.

SyMBIOTA also taps into detailed account of antibiotic prescription obtained from provincial database records. Microbiota profiles (generated via high throughput signature gene sequencing analysis of fecal samples at birth, 3 months and 1 year) are being determined in the University of Toronto laboratories of SyMBIOTA collaborators.

Principal Investigators

Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj

Anita Kozyrskyj is Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, and School of Public Health at the University of Alberta.

See her profiles with the School of Public Health and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta.

Dr. James Scott

James Scott is an Associate Professor and Division Head in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Division of Occupational & Environmental Health at the University of Toronto, situated in the Gage Occupational & Environmental Health Unit (GOEHU). He is head of the School’s Scott Laboratory.

See his University of Toronto profile.