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Birth Canal bacteria for Cesarean babies to improve gut flora, and reduce asthma and allergies later in life? (From the category of, “Our bodies are so amazing!”)
by Carey Goldberg
The usual drill is to wipe the effluvia of birth off of newborn babies, cleaning them up and readying them for snuggling.
But in a fascinating departure, researchers have begun to experiment with the opposite: collecting birth-canal bacteria and wiping them onto babies after birth.
Why in the world? For good reason: to explore whether it might help babies delivered by C-section to restore some of the vaginal bacteria that they would have been exposed to if they’d gone through the birth canal.
Why do that? On the theory that altered bacterial populations could help explain why C-Section babies tend to have higher odds of asthma, allergies, obesity and other health risks.
The basic premise is that babies that should have crossed the birth canal, and for no medical reason they don’t, then this is a restoring intervention. But we still, as with any vaginal delivery, we check for strep B; I would make sure the mother is HIV-negative, strep-B negative, and has an acid, lactobacillus-dominated vagina.
Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, an associate professor in the Human Microbiome Program at the NYU School of Medicine, presented some preliminary results on that research at a recent conference of the American Society for Microbiology here in Boston. Those initial findings suggest that indeed, using gauze to gather a mother’s birth-canal bacteria and then impart them to babies born by C-section does make those babies’ bacterial populations more closely resemble vaginally born babies — though only partially.
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