First Focus Workshop: 1000-day window offers glimpse into microbe-reproductive health link

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock / Soren_Jessen
©iStock / Soren_Jessen

Related tags: Ipa world congress, Childbirth

The reproductive system’s microbial communities have a large say in the chances of a preterm birth, notes one expert ahead of his talk on the 1000 days of life at the IPA World Congress + Probiota this year.

Taking part in the event’s First Focus Workshop, Dr David MacIntyre reveals just how much of an influence certain microbial species have on reproductive health, wellness and development.

“Around 30-40% of all women who have a preterm birth experience preterm prelabour rupture of the membranes (PPROM), which is also known as when a woman’s waters break early in her pregnancy,”​ said Dr Macintyre, who is senior lecturer at Imperial College London.

David Macintyre
Dr David Macintyre, senior lecturer at Imperial College London.©Dr David MacIntyre

“In an impending study due to be published on the 24th Jan in BMC Medicine, we show that around half of these women have vaginal dysbiosis that is characterised by a severe depletion of Lactobacillus species in the reproductive tract and an overgrowth of potential pathogenic bacteria.”

Dr Macintyre along with his team also show that babies born through this kind of microbial community are at higher risk of neonatal sepsis than those born through a vaginal canal colonised only with Lactobacillus ​species.

“It is thought that these microbial communities cause inflammation in the lower reproductive tract that can prematurely activate key physiological pathways leading to premature birth including cervical ripening and membrane rupture,”​ he explained.

1000 days of life

The first 1000 days of a human’s life has never been more relevant and targeted to today’s pressing health challenges, with a bewildering array of infant formulas and supplemental aids available for newborns.

The astonishing rate of development from conception to age two has given cause for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular morbidity to be classed as paediatric diseases.

Improved maternal nutrition has also been highlighted as arguably the simplest way of giving a baby the best possible start in life, where even the method of delivery has been flagged up as one possible determinant of microbiome robustness.

“The early development and establishment of the neonatal gut microbiome appears to be influenced by delivery mode, although recent studies suggest this influence lasts for only a short period of time, perhaps a few weeks,”​ said Dr Macintyre.

“However, we know that the early neonatal gut microbiome plays a critical role in health by training the developing immune system, assisting in metabolism and nutrient uptake etc so it seems feasible that delivery mode may impact on these events although more evidence is required to prove any causal relationship.” 


IPA World Congress + Probiota 2018​​

The rapidly evolving universe of probiotics, prebiotics and the microbiome will be discussed in-depth at the upcoming IPA World Congress + Probiota 2018​ in Barcelona on February 7-9.

From microbiome advances, to start-up game changers, market stats, crucial clinical science and regulatory knowledge, this is a congressional must-have.

Will you be joining your peers in one of Europe’s great cities?

First Focus Workshop

Dr Macintyre is joined in the Workshop by a number of reproductive health experts that include Dr Lindsay Hall from the Quadram Institute, Omry Koren from the The Azrieli Faculty of Medicine, and Maria Carmen Collado, Institute of Agrochemistry & Food Technology at the Spanish National Research Council (IATA-CSIC).

The workshop’s line-up at this year’s IPA World Congress + Probiota 2018 responds to growing research momentum that underlines the enormous influence the maternal vaginal microbiota has early microbiome development.

Such is its impact, research has also pointed to its influence in neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, manifesting itself in later life.

The thinking is stress or anxiety experienced by the parents, coupled with inadequate nutrition during pregnancy, can have an impact on the baby, increasing their susceptibility to mental health problems growing up.

“We, along with others, have previously shown that pregnancy causes a shift towards Lactobacillus species domination of the lower reproductive tract,”​ Dr Macintyre added.

“These bacteria generally have a harmonious relationship with the mother and are well tolerated throughout pregnancy.”

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