Giving mothers’ excrements to C-section babies may help them develop healthy gut flora

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The FINANCIAL —  A new study conducted by a research group from the Pediatric Research Center suggests that feeding C-section newborns with their mothers’ excrements helps theme restore gut microbiota. The team compared the microbiota of the babies in their study to 82 not given the experimental treatment, born either vaginally or via C-section. A proof-of-concept study suggests the procedure can be safe, providing stringent screening is carried out beforehand.  The babies were given the fecal microbiota transplants (FMTs) shortly after birth. The mothers’ fecal samples were collected three weeks beforehand. Researchers say they plan to further study the development of the immune systems in C-section babies who receive FMTs and compare it to those who don’t.

Feeding babies delivered via cesarean section (C-section) their mother’s poop may help them develop healthy microbiota, a new small study suggests. Infants born this way have an increased risk of allergies and asthma because they are not exposed to the bacteria from the mother’s vagina and perineum during birth. In a drastic approach, researchers diluted a small number of the mother’s feces into breast milk and fed it to the newborn shortly after delivery. The team, from the Pediatric Research Center at the University of Helsinki, found the process was safe and that, within three months, the babies had gut bacteria that resembled those of babies born vaginally and not of those born via C-section who did not receive a transplant, Daily Mail reported.

The Pediatric Research Center consists of some 30 research groups from all the key fields of pediatric medicine and is located in Helsinki, in the Meilahti hospital area. The Pediatric Research Center connects research and medical treatment.

CS deliveries are increasing worldwide, affecting over 50% of infants in certain regions, and there is emerging evidence that that infants born by CS have different bacterial and other exposures that may subtly alter neonatal physiology.

A proof-of-concept study suggests the procedure can be safe, providing stringent screening is carried out beforehand. It also revealed the C-section babies had a similar microbial make-up at three months old to those born vaginally. The scientists were encouraged by their “effective” results but stressed new mothers should not try this at home“From a clinical point of view, this transfer of microbial material is happening during a vaginal delivery,” said study author Dr. Sture Andersson. “This is a gift the mother gives to her baby.”  The enrolment criteria for women who were scheduled to have C-section was stringent, with the team ensuring the mothers-to-be had no potentially dangerous infections, like group B streptococcus (GBS). Pregnant women are not routinely tested for GBS in the UK. Around one in five mothers-to-be are thought to have the bacteria in their vagina or digestive tract, with most going on to have healthy babies. There is a small risk of complications, however, like sepsis, Yahoo wrote. 

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The mothers who took part in the study were recruited with leaflets placed in doctors’ waiting rooms. About 30 women contacted the researchers to learn more, and 17 agreed to participate. Ten of them were found to have contraindications, such as a recent course of antibiotics or a potentially dangerous microbe, and ultimately seven mothers who were scheduled to have C-sections were enrolled. The babies were given the fecal microbiota transplants (FMTs) shortly after birth. The mothers’ fecal samples were collected three weeks beforehand. The babies stayed in the hospital for two days after the transplant to make sure there were no complications. The babies’ own fecal microbiota was tested at birth (the meconium) and again at two days, one week, two weeks, three weeks, and three months. The investigators found that by three months of age, the microbiotas of the babies who received the FMTs were similar to those of babies born vaginally. They were different from those of babies born by C-section, as well as from their mothers’ microbiotas. As a baseline for these comparisons, the researchers used data collected previously at the same hospital, as well as global datasets, according to MedicalXpress.

Each baby was given a sample of their mother’s stool mixed with some of the first breast milk they were ever fed. The team compared the microbiota of the babies in their study to 82 not given the experimental treatment, born either vaginally or via C-section. They found the microbiota of the babies given an FMT more resembled that of vaginally delivered babies than those born via C-section who were not treated. The approach appeared to correct the lack of certain types of bacteria seen in C-section babies, according to the authors, Newsweek reported.

The study reported that the newborns stayed in the hospital for two days after the transplant to make sure there were no complications. The babies’ own fecal microbiota was tested at birth and again after two days, one week, two weeks, three weeks, and three months. The babies also had blood work done two days after birth. In their future work, researchers say they plan to further study the development of the immune systems in C-section babies who receive FMTs and compare it to those who don’t. Unlike the current study, which was observational, future studies will have a control group and will be blinded to the mothers, according to CTV News.

Talking about the studies it is interesting to note that a retrospective study published in JAMA Network Open finds that people with untreated vitamin D deficiency, measured as less than 20 nanograms per milliliter, may be almost twice as likely to contract coronavirus compared to people who get sufficient doses of the sunshine vitamin. The study, out of UChicago Medicine, looked at 489 patients whose vitamin D levels were measured within the year before being tested for novel coronavirus. Those patients with levels categorized as deficient were found to be more likely to have a positive COVID-19 test result. Read more

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