Recent infant microbiome research Part 1:

Home birth, prenatal exposures, mode of birth and obesity

It can be tricky keeping up with the latest research on the infant microbiome. That’s why I’ve decided to collate some recent research and news articles into a series of blog-posts.

Here is a quick digest of recent research and news articles that caught my eye on home birth, prenatal bacterial exposures, how mode of birth impacts the infant microbiome and the connection with obesity in later life. It’s by no means a definitive list, but these are simply articles that I find interesting and help my understanding of the infant microbiome. I hope they will be helpful and interesting to you too.


News article: There's Something Different About The Gut Microbes of Babies Born at Home, Study Finds

Carly Cassella, Science Alert, 2nd November 2018

An easy-to-read article on a small but important study of 35 infants and their mothers - 14 home births and 21 hospital births, all followed for a month after birth - senior author was Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello from our Microbirth Movie (now a researcher in microbiota function at Rutgers University-New Brunswick)

The infants born at home had a a higher diversity within their gut microbiome compared to hospital-born infants, and the change persisted for the entire month. "The reasons for the differences between infants born at home versus in hospitals are not known, but we speculate that common hospital interventions like early infant bathing and antibiotic eye prophylaxis or environmental factors - like the aseptic environment of the hospital - may be involved," says Dr Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello.

Research paper: Differences in the fecal microbiota of neonates born at home or in the hospital

JL Combellick et al., Nature, Scientific Reports, December 2018


News article: Could baby’s first bacteria take root before birth?

Cassandra Willyard, Nature, 17th January 2018

Really good and easy-to-understand article looking at the science and differing perspectives on whether (or not) a baby is exposed to bacteria before birth. A fascinating read.


News article: A mother’s unintentional gift at birth

Paul Wilmes, Microbiology, December 5th 2018

Brilliant article about how a mother transfers specific gut bacteria to her newborn during vaginal delivery, and how babies born by C-section could have an "impeded" immune system..The article is based on a recent paper published in Nature Communications by the author, Paul Wilmes.

The transferred strains from mother to baby with vaginal birth "carry important functions that are linked to an increased potential to stimulate the baby’s immune system during the very first days of life. While these findings are already interesting, we have also found that this mother-to-baby transfer of bacteria is impeded in the case of C-section, thus resulting in a strongly diminished stimulation of the immune system".

The article concludes: "Thus, we were able to show that the early gut microbiome of vaginally delivered neonates harbors a considerably higher potential to stimulate the immune system, whereas the gut microbiome of C-section delivered babies did not.”

Research paper: Birth mode is associated with earliest strain-conferred gut microbiome functions and immunostimulatory potential:

Wampach et al., Nature Communications 9, Article Number 5091, 30th November 2018

Not a particularly easy read but the full research paper explains that being born by C-section impacts the development of the infant microbiome "with the potential for lasting effects in later life"

"Taken together, our results support that CSD (Cesarean Section delivery) disrupts mother-to-neonate transmission of specific microbial strains, linked functional repertoires and immune-stimulatory potential during a critical window for neonatal immune system priming."


News article: Early life gut microbiome as an obesity and type 1 diabetes predictor

Andreu Prados, Gut Microbiota For Health, 8th November 2018

Great review and explanation of three new studies on the link between the composition of the infant gut microbiome and risk of obesity and type 1 diabetes later in childhood.

Research links:

Stanislawski MA, Dabelea D, Wagner BD, et al. Gut microbiota in the first 2 years of life and the association with body mass index at age 12 in a Norwegian birth cohort. mBio. 2018; 9:e01751-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01751-18.

Stewart CJ, Ajami NJ, O’Brien JL, et al. Temporal development of the gut microbiome in early childhood from the TEDDY study. Nature. 2018; 562:583-8. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0617-x.

Vatanen T, Franzosa EA, Schwager R, et al. The human gut microbiome in early-onset type 1 diabetes from the TEDDY study. Nature. 2018; 562:589-94. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0620-2.

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