The microbiome gets seeded at birth

While the womb was initially thought to be sterile, some scientists have argued that it is where the microbiome begins, due to some evidence of non-pathogenic bacteria in the placenta, amniotic fluid and the first stool that forms in a fetus.

However, recent research findings suggest that a baby’s main encounter with microbes takes place principally at birth. Nevertheless, such an observation does not diminish the importance of the role of microorganisms in a healthy pregnancy. And although the fetus is in a sterile environment within the womb, it is exposed to its mother’s microbiome metabolites, which may play an important role in shaping the developing immune system.

Factors that affect gut colonization include type of birth (natural route or C-section), place of birth, the mother and the baby’s exposure to drugs (antibiotics but also other commonly used drugs such as proton pump inhibitors for reducing heartburn, acid reflux and stomach ulcers) and time and mode of weaning.


How to leverage the baby’s gut microbiome for better health later in life

It is known that a baby’s exposure to environmental factors during the first 1,000 days of life can affect health in later life.

While there is no single recipe for achieving an optimal gut microbiome that protects a newborn from immune and metabolic diseases, promoting breastfeeding as much as possible is good advice for supporting and developing a baby’s immature digestive and immune system. Specific prebiotics and probiotics that tailor the baby’s gut microbiota demands are also under development to promote the establishment of the infant gut microbiota. However, research does not yet allow for their generalized use for infant protection.

In this interview on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of GMFH, Dr. Hervé Blottière, Director of Research at the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), provides an update on the latest science that looks at when gut microbiota colonization starts and the available interventions for promoting the healthy establishment of infant gut microbiota that may have an impact on health later in life.



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