Exposing C-Section Newborns to Mom’s Germs May Be Healthy: Study

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Exposing C-Section Newborns to Mom’s Germs May Be HealthyResearchers are purposely giving babies born through C-section what they call protective germs taken from the mother’s birth canal. They say that babies born through a vaginal birth are exposed to bacteria that will later help keep them healthy.

Babies who are born through C-section are not given the opportunity to gain the same type of exposure to positive bacteria. So in a new study, scientists are now manually creating this exposure to test what kind of impact it would have on the child’s development. This is done by swabbing the fluids from the mother’s vaginal area onto the child within two minutes of birth.

Researchers are looking specifically for the development of these helpful microbes. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello of New York University, the lead author of the pilot study, said researchers would reveal how babies assemble their microbiome, to see if the C-section babies ever “catch up.”

The study is still in its beginning stages, and a small sample has already been conducted of seven babies born naturally and 11 babies born through a C-section—four of whom have been swabbed with the bacteria. Researchers then took over 1,500 samples from the infants over a span of 30 days to test the growth of microbes.

Early reports show that the C-section infants swabbed with the bacteria have microbes similar to those of babies born naturally. The other C-section infants were missing two key bacteria—Lactobacillus and Bacteroides—which are known to help build the immune system.

The study is expanding, and Dominguez-Bello now has over 80 babies and 13,000 samples waiting to be researched.

Gregor Reid, microbiology professor at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, agreed with the logic behind the study. “The first few years of life are when we are programmed for long-term health. What this study is trying to say is, ‘I wonder how critical the vaginal microbiome is to this whole programming concept?”

Other doctors warn mothers not to move forward with this practice until more is known.

Another recent study presented by the Children’s Hospital in L.A. suggests that newborn babies who experience hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (when the brain is deprived of oxygen) be given what’s known as therapeutic hypothermia (cooling of the brain) to protect the brain.

Researchers discovered that a protective effect occurred when the brain was cooled down enough to create a balance between neurotransmission and energy metabolism. Slowing this production of neurotransmitters lower’s the brain’s hunger drive—so if the brain doesn’t have that large appetite, it can’t be starved. Researchers are hopeful that therapeutic hypothermia could be more commonly employed alongside hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy treatments.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Dominguez-Bello, M.G., “Partial restoration of the microbiota of cesarean-born infants via vaginal microbial transfer,” Nature Medicine, 2016; doi:10.1038/nm.4039.

Neergaard, L., “Could germs help babies?” Times Colonist web site, February 2, 2016; http://www.timescolonist.com/life/could-germs-help-babies-1.2163370.