Even the human fetus can boast its own intestinal microbiome. Confirmation came from a new study conducted by researchers at Chicago Children’s Hospital Ann & Robert H. Lurie who conducted observations on both humans and mice. The results show that a community of bacteria lives in the intestines of fetuses and even before birth this microbiome can play an important role in the immune system and the metabolism of the unborn child.
In the study, published in JCI Insight, further evidence is provided that this microbiome is transmitted from the mother to the fetus. The study, therefore, resolves a controversy lasting several decades concerning the existence or not of a fetal microbiome. Previously studies had only shown the presence of microbial DNA in the fetal environment but it had never been confirmed whether this DNA was related to viable bacteria and how it connected to the maternal microbiome.
The researchers analyzed the microbiomes of children at the time of birth, involving only those children born by cesarean section, ie children who had avoided exposure to the maternal genitourinary microbiome during vaginal birth. The results produced by the researchers could prove to be important to help the baby grow better especially in cases where premature birth is expected. One could, for example, somehow stimulate the mother’s microbiome to positively influence that of the unborn child.
According to Patrick C. Seed, one of the authors of the study, these results show that it is probably the controlled exposure to these microbes that forms the first immune system and the developing metabolism, however new research will now be conducted to understand the importance of the microbiome in the fetus and above all to understand how it is possible to modify it to improve the health of the fetus itself.