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Partial Microbiome Restoration

Researchers from New York, California, and Puerto Rico swabbed babies born via Caesarian section with maternal vaginal fluids in a bid to determine whether that would enable the infants to develop a microbiome more similar to that of their vaginally born peers. Infants born by C-section aren't exposed to the maternal vaginal microbiome, and delivery by C-section, they note, is linked to an increased risk of immune and metabolic disorders.

As the researchers led by Jose Clemente at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai report in Nature Medicine this week, they exposed four babies born by C-section to maternal vaginal fluids at birth and followed them for 30 days. They also collected samples from seven C-section babies who weren't swabbed and seven babies born vaginally, as well as from all the infants' mothers.

At different time points, they characterized the composition of the babies' microbiomes by 16S rRNA sequencing, they found that the microbiomes of the swabbed C-section infants could be partially restored to resemble those of vaginally born babies within a month.

"For some taxa the transfer was essentially complete, but other taxa didn't really take," study author Rob Knight, director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego tells the Los Angeles Times.

But whether there is an influence on health is still an open question. First author Maria Dominguez-Bello from New York University adds at Nature News that she and her colleagues are working on a follow-up study that would enroll 75 infants and follow them for a year. To gauge whether this procedure has any effect on health, though, she says she'd have to enroll 1,200 babies into a study and follow them for three years to five years.