Information for healthcare professionals

Who are we?

Alba Health is a company on a mission to help families improve their lifestyle in the first years of their children’s lives, backed by evidence and in collaboration with top academic institutions.

We are driven by the insight that the intestinal (gut) microbiome in the first years of life is linked to common childhood symptoms (such as colic, constipation, eczema and sleep disruption) as well as the development of chronic diseases later in life (such as allergies, asthma, autism and obesity).

What do we do now

We leverage established microbiome science, digital technologies and AI.

We build digital products that help families lead a healthier life focused on wellbeing, based on established science.

Our mid-term objectives

To better diagnose, reduce symptoms and ultimately prevent health risks (upon regulatory approval).

To gather millions of real world data-points to advance research.

Our long-term vision

A world where every family has personalised support to lead a healthy life and prevent chronic conditions.

A real-world dataset to advance our understanding of chronic diseases with university partners.

Our team

Alba Health Scientific Co-founder and Distinguished Prof. Emeritus Willem M de Vos is a renowned authority in the microbiome field with over 850 publications, and extensive experience leading one of the world’s largest longitudinal child gut microbiome studies - the Health and Early Life Microbiota (HELMi) cohort at University of Helsinki. 

Alba Health is working with leading paediatricians, gastroenterologists, nutritionists and researchers that together form our scientific advisory board and has over 1600 scientific publications combined. 

Meet our scientific advisory board

Scientific co-founder Prof. Emeritus Willem M de Vos
Prof. Emeritus Willem M de Vos
PhD
Microbiology
  • Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Helsinki and University of Wageningen
  • 850+ publications pioneering microbiome science, especially in early life (H-index>190)
  • Discovered Akkermansia muciniphila - a key microorganism with a role in cardio metabolic diseases
  • First to pioneer faecal microbiota transplants (FMT) to restore the infant gut microbiome after C-section and antibiotics
  • Co-leads the HELMi Cohort at University of Helsinki
  • Scientific Co-founder of Alba Health
Prof. Yvan Vandenplas, Alba advisor, MD and paediatrician
Prof. Yvan Vandeplas
MD
Paediatrics
Gastroenterology
  • Paediatrician and Head of Paediatrics, Vrije Universiteit Brussels and University Hospital Brussels
  • 600+ publications in paediatric gastroenterology, with a focus on colic, functional gastro-intestinal disorders and infant nutrition (H-index = 90)
  • Part of the working group of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) evaluating evidence in probiotics
Dr. Erica Bonns, Alba advisor, MD, clinical nutrition
Dr. Erica Bonns
MD
Paediatrics
  • Medical doctor specialised in paediatrics, Stockholm
  • Board member at several digital health companies and startups in Sweden, focusing on making healthcare closer to citizens
  • Previously Chief Medical Officer at digital solution and AI companies for healthcare
Medical advisor Robert Brummer
Prof. Robert Brummer
MD
Clinical nutrition
Gastroenterology
  • Professor of Gastroenterology and Clinical nutrition at Örebro University, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health
  • Medical doctor specialised in clinical nutrition and leading a centre of excellence in nutrition, the Food and Health Initiative and Rosetta initiatives,
  • Non-compensated Scientific and Medical Advisor for Alba Health
Scientific advisor Luisa Hugerth
Prof. Luisa W. Hugerth
PhD
Molecular biology
Bioinformatics
  • Principal Investigator at Uppsala University affiliated to the Karolinska Institute
  • Researcher specialising in the maternal gut microbiome during pregnancy and the effects on newborn infants, as well as the infant microbiome and functional gastro-intestinal disorders
  • Previously, she was part of leading the research team at the SweMami cohort, studying the gut and vaginal microbiome of 5000 mothers and infants, in Sweden
  • Non-compensated Scientific and Medical Advisor for Alba Health
Dr. Jakob Stokholm
MD, PhD
Paediatrics
Bioinformatics
  • Senior researcher at COPSAC, University of Copenhagen.
  • Leading the microbiome group at COPSAC (The Copenhagen Prospective Study on Asthma in Childhood) - one of the largest child cohorts in Europe, including gut microbiome data and 20+ years of longitudinal data.  
  • 150+ publications with a focus on the gut microbiome, obesity and asthma in childhood.
  • Non-compensated Scientific and Medical Advisor for Alba Health
Prof. Nele Brusselaers
MD, PhD
Epidemiology
  • Professor of Pharmaco-epidemiology at University of Antwerp
  • Senior researcher and team leader in Clinical Epidemiology at the Centre for Translational Microbiome Research (CTMR) at Karolinska Institutet, specialising in diseases of the gastro-intestinal tract and alterations of the gut microbiome
  • Previously, she was part of leading the research team at the SweMami cohort, studying the gut and vaginal microbiome of 5000 mothers and infants, in Sweden
  • Non-compensated Scientific and Medical Advisor for Alba Health
Michelle Henning
Author, Certified Nutrition & Health Coach
Nutrition
  • Certified Parent Coach and Certified Nutrition & Health Coach
  • Author of the book "Grow Healthy Babies: The Evidence-Based Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and Reducing Your Child’s Risk of Asthma, Eczema, and Allergies" (2021). Michelle's book reviewed over 660 studies on the subject and is has been praised by key opinion leaders: “One of the best books I have ever read. As scientist, obstetrician, and a trainer - it's essential reading for anyone working in pregnancy health to be able to give the right advice to women to nurture their baby and optimise their future. ” - Dr. Karen Joash, Obstetrician, Gynecologist and Director of Medical Education at Imperial College London & NHS
  • Nutrition & Parenting author for WIRED, Pathways to Family Health and Babycenter

Collaborations & Research

Alba Health has established a research collaboration with the University of Helsinki’s Health and Early Life Microbiota (HELMi) cohort, one of the world’s leading child health cohorts that links gut health, lifestyle, and health outcomes. 

HELMi

Health and Early Life Microbiota, University of Helsinki

1,000+

Children

10,000+

Microbiome samples

50,000+

Lifestyle datapoints

6+

Years of data

*This research collaboration does not involve processing of HELMi-gathered personal data by Alba Health 

What do we know about the gut microbiome?

Although there is still a lot we don’t know about our microbiome, gut microbiome research has gained a lot of attention over the last years [1]. Scientific publications on the human gut microbiome have increased over ten-fold over the past decade alone [2], strengthening the correlations between the gut microbiome and health during early life and providing insight in its mechanisms [3].

Moreover, there is increasing support for the notion that early life microbial colonisation affects life-long health.

Gut microbiome and common childhood symptoms

Colic

affects 1 in 5 infants [4]

The gut microbiome is suggested to play a role in infantile colic. Colicky infants have shown differences in microbial stability, diversity and patterns of colonisation compared to healthy infants [5].

Gut microbiome in early life and chronic diseases in later life

Allergic diseases

Changes in the gut microbiome are associated with later diagnosis of allergic diseases in children such as atopic dermatitis, asthma and food allergies. Alterations in microbial functional pathways have shown to be associated with higher risk of developing allergies, with allergy-prone children showing a lack of the microbes that produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA), notably butyrate [6,7].

Atopic dermatitis

affects more than 1 in 10 children <6 years [8]

Digestion of human milk oligosaccharides by gut microbes are associated with a decreased risk of developing atopic dermatitis through the immunomodulatory effects of microbial metabolites [9].

Food allergies

affect up to 1 in 10 children [10]

The gut microbiome and its metabolites have shown to play a role in oral tolerance to food. This process has shown to be especially important during early life, as disruptions in this process during infant weaning, might increase the risk to develop food allergies [11]. Allergic children show differences in their gut microbiome compared to healthy controls [12], including decreased diversity, differences between bacterial species [13] and lower abundance of bacteria producing SCFAs [14].

Asthma

affects 1 in 10 children [15]

Immature gut microbial composition or gut microbiome perturbations in children 1 year of age is associated with an increased risk of asthma development by age 5-6 years [16, 17].

Autoimmune diseases

Type 1 diabetes

affects 1 in 25 children in Western countries [18]

Infants that later develop type 1 diabetes (T1D) have shown to have a different gut microbiome than that of healthy infants [19]. T1D children show gut microbiome alterations, including a reduced ability to produce protective SCFAs [20, 21]. 

Coeliac disease

affects almost 1 in 100 children [22]

Children that go on to develop coeliac disease show alterations in microbial abundance before disease onset compared to healthy children [23].

Cognitive development

Autism spectrum disorders

affects 1 in 100 children [24]

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are more likely to experience gut symptoms [25] and show altered microbial composition associated with reduced microbial diversity and richness [26] and deceased SCFA levels [27]. Similarly, infants with higher risk of ASD have shown to present alterations in both gut microbiome composition and functionality during early life [28]. 

Metabolic disorders

Obesity and overweight

affects a third of European school-aged children [29]

Studies show a general trend where certain bacterial compositions and alterations in bacterial abundance are associated with paediatric overweight and obesity. This can be linked to the three main microbiome disruptors in early life - antibiotics, caesarean-section delivery and formula feeding - which all have been shown to alter the gut microbiome and are linked to metabolic dysregulation [30]. 

Gut microbiome and immune system development

Scientific literature shows a link between the gut microbiome and immunoregulation during immune system development [31]. The microbiome composition has shown to be influenced by delivery mode and geographical location, showing the ecological overlap between different bacteria on such conditions [32, 33]. In addition, multiple studies show the effect of environmental conditions (siblings, pets, nature and household) on infant gut microbiome, immune development and subsequent disease development: 

  • Presence of siblings between 6-18 months of age and household pets impacts the composition of the child gut microbiome [34].
  • Children with older siblings have a more developed gut microbiome at 12 months of age which is associated with a lower prevalence of food allergies [35].
  • Microbes carried by household pets can stimulate the infant immune system and decrease the risk of childhood eczema, asthma and obesity [36].
  • Children who play in dirt, grass and among trees have shown to have a more diverse gut microbiome compared to children who play on a school yard with concrete and gravel [37].
  • Exposure to antibacterial ingredients used in household cleaning products during infancy has been associated with overweight during early childhood [38].
The main disruptors of infant gut microbiome development

C-section

accounts for 1 in 4 births in Europe [39]

Birth via caesarean-section removes the moment of gut bacteria transmission from the mother to the infant compared to vaginal delivery [40], and the changes in colonisation brought on by caesarean-section can persist for up to one year [41]. Infants born via caesarean-section show gut microbiome alterations [40,42] including a reduced abundance of certain bacteria thought to play a role in training of the immune system [43].

Formula feeding

together with expressed breast milk are given to 1 in 4 Swedish infants by four months of age [44]

There are well established differences between the gut microbiome in breastfed and formula-fed infants. In general, the gut microbiome in formula fed infants shows different abundance and diversity [45, 46] with differences in infection response [45] and colonisation patterns of important early-life bacteria [46] in formula fed infants compared to breastfed infants. 

Antibiotics

are given to more than 2 in 5 of Swedish children ages 0-2 [47]

The infant gut microbiome is disrupted after antibiotics [42, 47-50] as seen in vaginally delivered infants where antibiotic exposure alters the gut microbiome similar to C-section [41]. Studies show that exposure to antibiotics in the first years of life is associated with multiple chronic conditions and overweight [51,52].

Can the gut microbiome be changed - therapeutic potential?

While our genome can not be changed easily, our gut microbiome can be altered and improved to prevent or even treat deviations that may lead to disease [53]. This has developed into an area of active research. 

Various studies have addressed the use of interventions with live bacteria that have a health benefit, also known as probiotics, that can prevent or improve allergic diseases [54-56]. In some cases this has been associated with improved gut microbiome composition and function [57, 58]. 

Specific attention has been given to infants delivered by caesarean-section where various interventions have shown normalisation of the gut microbiome [59, 60]. A recent ESPGHAN review is recommending the use of probiotics in specific clinical situations in infants with gastro-intestinal diseases [61]. 

Another type of intervention is that with specific substrates for gut microbes that improve health, termed prebiotics. These are of great interest in early life development as the mothers’ milk contains a large amount of so called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) that are selectively used by gut bacteria that colonise in early life, such as Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides spp. [53]. Specific combinations of oligosaccharides have been shown to improve the gut microbiome in infant-formula-fed infants to resemble closer to that of breast-fed infants [62]. New developments have focused on providing infants with specific HMOs with the same aim [63]. 

How do we analyse the gut microbiome at Alba?

Alba Health asks parents to provide a stool sample from the diaper of their child, meaning that this procedure is non-invasive and does not require parents to make any changes in their daily routine.

Alba Health uses deep shotgun metagenomics sequencing technology to analyse extracted DNA from the infant stool samples. This method provides comprehensive microbiome profiling, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa and bacteriophages and enables characterisation of the microbiome composition. This is the most advanced technology used in microbiome research today with the highest output, offering both insights into composition and functionality.

Our technology offers more comprehensive insights
Shotgun Metagenomics
(Alba Health)*
16S RNA amplicon
RNA sequencing
qPCR
General composition
Species level resolution
Functional analysis
Antibiotic resistance markers
Prediction of metabolic pathways
*Alba Health has validated the quality of our results in a study testing collection robustness, DNA extraction and sequencing
How we handle your privacy

Only microbial DNA is analysed, while human DNA is not. Microbial DNA does not allow to trace back to one individual. The analyses will be performed at Alba Health using its infrastructure and data will be stored in Sweden in compliance with GDPR and informed consent.

What is the PREVENT study about?

Alba Health is launching their first research study mapping the connection between the gut microbiome and lifestyle, wellbeing and health during the first year of life.

Research aim and hypothesis
  • The main aim of this study is to assess the association between the infant microbiome during the first year of life and health over a 6 months period using extensive metadata collection.
  • Our secondary aim is to develop machine-learning models to predict core microbiome markers based on stool characteristics.
  • Our third and final aim is to evaluate if a recording of infant crying can be a tool to decrease the burden of first-time parents on understanding their infant's needs.

The focus on crying is a first in history!

If our hypothesis is correct, key age points are significant predictors for microbiome development, which correlates to introducing different foods to the infant's diet. The study and definition of what is to be considered a healthy microbiome constitution for these windows of time may allow for dietary interventions, good immune development of the child, and possibly prevention of complications.

Study design

The PREVENT study is an observational study, meaning that we do not ask participants to change their daily routine and they will be able to participate from their own home and no doctor’s visits are needed. All research will be carried out in Sweden.

Legal guidelines
  • This study has been approved by the Swedish Ethics Review Authority (registration nr. 2023-05299-01)
  • All data will be handled in accordance with GDPR, Swedish law and informed consent.
  • All participants will be asked to provide their informed consent before they begin any study activities.
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