Gut bacteria are suspected to be a source of nutrients and vitamins for a growing infant. Our intestinal tenants are able to interact with normal cellular processes to, for example, produce essential amino acids. Understanding the role individual gut microbes play in metabolism, immunity, and even behavior is an active area of investigation.
This new study, led by Bäckhed and Jovanna Dahlgren at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Wang Jun at the Beijing Genomics Institute-Shenzhen, China, supports previous observations that most early bacterial colonizers of the gut are derived from the mother. The investigators noted that while C-section babies receive less of their mother’s microbes, they are still able to be passed on through the skin and mouth.
Once bacteria take hold in an infant’s gut, their populations shift depending on what a child eats. The researchers believe that the cessation of breast-feeding is such a significant moment in microbiome development because certain types of bacteria thrive on the nutrients breast milk provides. Once these nutrients are no longer available, other bacteria emerge that are more commonly seen in adults.