A new study from New York University researchers, in collaboration with several other U.S.-based groups, revealed that babies born by C-section may receive benefits from being swabbed by their mother’s birth fluid, restoring the balance of the immune system. When studied over the first 30 days after being born, C-section delivered babies exposed to vaginal fluids had microbiomes that were similar to babies born vaginally. The report, titled “Partial restoration of the microbiota of Cesarean-born infants via vaginal microbial transfer,“ appeared in the journal Nature Medicine.
Researchers believe that disruption of the microbiome plays an important role in the development of many different immune system-related disorders, including inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Many factors may contribute to the disruption of the microbiome in infants, including C-sections, use of antibiotics during pregnancy, and use of baby formula.
Microbiome are bacteria in human skin, guts, and mouths. They help with immunity, digestion, and metabolism.
“Our study is the first to demonstrate that partial microbiome restoration just after birth is possible in babies born by C-section,” study author and microbiologist Dr. Maria Dominguez-Bello, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone, said in a press release. “With a third of U.S. babies now born by C-section, twice the number as is medically necessary, the question of whether a baby’s founding microbiome affects its future disease risk has become more urgent.”
Researchers swabbed the mouth of infants with a gauze previously placed in the women’s vaginas. Vaginally delivered infants and those infants who received the swabbing had increased levels of “good” bacterias, including lactobacillus and bacteroides. These types of bacteria help train the immune system not to attack helpful bacteria that aid in gut health and digestion.
Although the work is promising, more research is needed to confirm the findings. “Larger studies that measure the effect of early microbiome restoration on health outcomes would begin to answer whether or not it averts future disease risk,” Dominguez-Bello said. “The current study represents proof of a principle in a small cohort, and shows that our method is worthy of further development as we seek to determine the health impact of microbial differences.”
In addition, the short-term study needs to be followed up to understand if there are beneficial long-term consequences of restoring bacteria in new born infants.
Hopefully, future studies will additionally focus on the impact of birth-related bacteria on later development of immune disorders such as IBD, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These diseases are on the rise and more is needed to be done to prevent their development.