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Young children’s healthy gut microbiomes are not harmed by chlorinated water supplies

The U.S. CDC estimate that more than 2,000 children worldwide pass away every day for no other reason than a lack of access to clean drinking water. 

A prevalent worry is that chlorinating water can damage the good bacteria that are essential to maintaining health in children’s developing gut microbiomes.

Researchers from the University of California, the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh, and Eawag in Switzerland found that treating drinking water in Dhaka, Bangladesh with chlorine has the added benefits of reducing diarrhoea and antibiotic use while not disrupting the normal population of bacteria in children’s digestive tracts.

When stool samples from children who drank chlorinated water were examined for microbiomes, the scientists discovered a comparable diversity and number of bacteria in the children who didn’t. Despite some minor variations, such as the enrichment of beneficial bacteria and increases in the presence of some antibiotic resistance genes, the general composition of their microbiomes remained the same.

The study demonstrates that while chlorine inactivates microorganisms in water during storage, transit, and tap delivery, it does not destroy beneficial bacteria once the water has been drunk. Chlorination promotes the growth and beneficial function of children’s microbiomes in preserving health by keeping harmful bacteria out of the water supply.

That is crucial, particularly in the early years of life. Infants’ gut microbiomes are planted at birth, expand and stabilise until they resemble those of adults by the time they are approximately three years old. The development of allergies, illness susceptibility, disease development, and even mental health milestones may all be influenced by the progressive colonisation of various microorganisms in the microbiome. Understanding all the long-term health implications of using chlorinated water may be made easier by further research.

Young children’s healthy gut microbiomes are not harmed by chlorinated water supplies

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