Writing in the journal mBio, the international team of researchers analysed the effect of microbiome acquisition in infants participating in the Growing Up in Singapore Toward Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) birth cohort.
Led by Dr Joanna Holbrook from A*STAR's Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS), the team found that infants born by vaginal delivery at full term but after a longer duration of gestation acquired a more mature gut microbiota at a faster rate.
In contrast, infants who were delivered by Caesarean section and after a shorter duration of gestation had a delay in the development of their gut microbiota.
Holbrook and her colleagues then found that infants with a mature gut bacteria profile at an early age had normal levels of body fat at the age of 18 months, while infants with less mature gut bacteria profiles tended to have lower levels of body fat at the age of 18 months - indicating that gut bacteria could be related to normal development and healthy weight gain.
"Epidemiological data has linked what happens to us very early in life with our health later in life,” commented the senior researcher. “The mechanisms for this are not yet known; how do our bodies remember our earliest experiences in a way that impacts health issues like our weight? This work suggests that one of the mechanisms for the transmission of early life experience to later life health is the seeding of our gut microbiota."
"This study is an important example of how influences before and after birth have a lasting effect on the growth and development of the child,” added Professor Keith Godfrey, a co-investigator on the study at the University of Southampton, UK. “The findings will help our EpiGen global research consortium to design future interventions aimed at optimising early development, with benefits for lifelong health."
Holbrook and her colleagues investigated the effects and impacts of microbiome acquisition in infants 75 infants participating in the GUSTO study, as part of the international EpiGen research consortium.
Researchers in Singapore and UK worked together with scientists at the Nestlé Research Center, Switzerland, to test the microbial content of longitudinal faecal samples during the first 6 months of life.
“To our knowledge, this study is the largest of its type in terms of both including 75 individuals and sampling them longitudinally across four time points,” wrote Holbrook and her colleagues.
The data was used to investigate the effect of environmental factors, including delivery mode and duration of gestation, on the trajectory of microbial development, along with the associative relationships with later adiposity, said the team.
“We found that the relatively simple microbiota of young infants shifts predictably to a more mature anaerobic microbiota during infancy and the dynamics of this shift are influenced by environmental factors,” the authors revealed.
According to their findings, most infants had acquired a microbiota profile high in Bifidobacterium and Collinsella by 6 months of age, but the time point of this acquisition was later in infants delivered by caesarean section and those born after a shorter duration of gestation.
“Independently of the delivery mode and gestation duration, infants who acquired a profile high in Bifidobacterium and Collinsella at a later age had lower adiposity at 18 months of age,” they concluded.
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1128/mBio.02419-14
“Dynamics of Infant Gut Microbiota Are Influenced by Delivery Mode and Gestational Duration and Are Associated with Subsequent Adiposity”
Authors: Shaillay Dogra, et al