The placenta harbors a unique microbiome

Contrary to the common idea of a “sterile” intrauterine environment, Aagaard and coauthors demonstrated the presence of a microbiome in placentas from 320 healthy pregnancies, collected under sterile conditions. This microbiome was quite different from that reported in other parts of the mother´s body including the vagina and the gut, and resembled more the microbiome of her oral cavity, however in much lower abundance.

This raises the question – without being able to answer it yet – whether bacteria ingested via food of mothers are able to affect the microbiome development of the baby even before delivery. An altered placental microbiome was associated with antenatal oral infections, that in turn may have resulted in preterm deliveries.

Source: Kjersti Aagaard et al. The Placenta Harbors a Unique MicrobiomeSci Transl Med 6, 237ra65 (2014)

Paul Enck
Paul Enck
Prof. Dr. Paul Enck, Director of Research, Dept. of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tübingen, Germany. His main interests are gut functions in health and disease, including functional and inflammatory bowel disorders, the role of the gut microbiota, regulation of eating and food intake and its disorders, of nausea, vomiting and motion sickness, and the psychophysiology and neurobiology of the placebo response, with specific emphasis on age and gender contributions. He has published more than 170 original data paper in scientific, peer-reviewed journals, and more than 250 book chapters and review articles. He is board member/treasurer of the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility and of the German Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, and has served as reviewer for many international journals and grant agencies.