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Researchers Attempt to Boost ‘Good Bacteria’ in C-section Babies

Update Date: Feb 02, 2016 10:34 AM EST

Babies who enter the world through a Cesarean section might be able to get a healthy dose of protective bacteria from their mothers with the help of doctors, researchers reported.

Babies who are born vaginally get exposed to bacteria through the birth canal, which can help their bodies develop a healthy microbiome. Babies born via a C-section, however, are not exposed to their mother's microbes, which could lead to unknown health consequences later on in life.

"What we are going to show is how babies assemble their microbiome," microbiologist and lead researcher of the study, Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello of New York University, explained reported by Healthday via "Do C-section babies ever catch up?"

For this study, the researchers wanted to see if they could restore some of the mother's protective bacteria in C-section babies by swabbing these babies with their mother's vaginal fluid within two minutes post delivery.

The researchers recruited seven babies who were born naturally and 11 babies who were born via C-section. In the C-section group, four of the babies were swabbed with their mother's bacteria. The team then analyzed how the babies' microbiomes were developing by taking more than 1,500 samples from different parts of the body six times within the first month of birth.

The team found that the microbiomes of naturally born babies and the C-section babies who were exposed to their mother's vaginal fluid were very similar. When the team compared the two groups of C-section babies, they found that those who were not exposed to the vaginal fluid had almost no signs of two bacteria species known as Lactobacillus and Bacteroides. These two species are believed to play important roles in the development of the immune system.

"Our study is the first to demonstrate that partial microbiome restoration just after birth is possible in babies born by C-section," Dominguez-Bello said reported by the Washington Post. "With a third of U.S. babies now born by C-section, twice the number as is medically necessary, the question of whether a baby's founding microbiome affects its future disease risk has become more urgent."

The researchers stressed the importance of determining whether or not babies that have been exposed to bacteria are actually healthier later on in life.

The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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