Maternal and early life exposures and their potential to influence development of the microbiome

Genome Med. 2022 Jan 11;14(1):4. doi: 10.1186/s13073-021-01005-7.


At the dawn of the twentieth century, the medical care of mothers and children was largely relegated to family members and informally trained birth attendants. As the industrial era progressed, early and key public health observations among women and children linked the persistence of adverse health outcomes to poverty and poor nutrition. In the time hence, numerous studies connecting genetics (“nature”) to public health and epidemiologic data on the role of the environment (“nurture”) have yielded insights into the importance of early life exposures in relation to the occurrence of common diseases, such as diabetes, allergic and atopic disease, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. As a result of these parallel efforts in science, medicine, and public health, the developing brain, immune system, and metabolic physiology are now recognized as being particularly vulnerable to poor nutrition and stressful environments from the start of pregnancy to 3 years of age. In particular, compelling evidence arising from a diverse array of studies across mammalian lineages suggest that modifications to our metagenome and/or microbiome occur following certain environmental exposures during pregnancy and lactation, which in turn render risk of childhood and adult diseases. In this review, we will consider the evidence suggesting that development of the offspring microbiome may be vulnerable to maternal exposures, including an analysis of the data regarding the presence or absence of a low-biomass intrauterine microbiome.

PMID:35016706 | PMC:PMC8751292 | DOI:10.1186/s13073-021-01005-7


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