The bacteria building your baby:
Exposure to influential bacteria begins before we are born, new evidence confirms
Researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: Is the womb sterile? A new study used uniquely rigorous contamination controls to confirm that exposure to bacteria begins in the womb and could help to shape the developing fetal immune system, gut, and brain.
The not-so-sterile womb:
Over the last decade, numerous studies have detected bacterial DNA in amniotic fluid and first-pass meconium [baby's first poop], challenging the long-held assumption that the womb is sterile
It is important to conclusively determine whether the healthy womb harbors bacteria say the researchers, because this 'fetal microbiome' would likely have a significant impact on the developing immune system, gut, and brain.
The fetal microbiome:
Interestingly, the meconium microbiome varied hugely between individual newborns. The amniotic fluid microbiome, for the most part, contained typical skin bacteria, such as Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus species.
A developmental role:
But what might these bacteria be doing in the womb?
None of these women or their babies had any sign of infection. In fact, the fetal microbiome may prove to be a beneficial regulator of early development.
Researchers have found that levels of important immune modulators in meconium and inflammatory mediators in amniotic fluid varied according to the amount and species of bacterial DNA present. This suggests that the fetal microbiome has the potential to influence the developing fetal immune system.