Changes in the vaginal microbiome are associated with effects on offspring gut microbiota and on the developing brain, according to a new study published online on June 16, 2015 in an open-access article in Endocrinology, a journal of the Endocrine Society. The article is titled “'Alterations in the Vaginal Microbiome by Maternal Stress Are Associated with Metabolic Reprogramming of the Offspring Gut and Brain.” The neonate is exposed to the maternal vaginal microbiota during birth, providing the primary source for normal gut colonization, host immune maturation, and metabolism. These early interactions between the host and microbiota occur during a critical window of neurodevelopment, suggesting that early life is an important period of cross-talk between the developing gut and brain. “Mom's stress during pregnancy can impact her offspring's development, including the brain, through changes in the vaginal microbiome that are passed on during vaginal birth,” said one of the study's authors, Tracy Bale, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania. “As the neonate's gut is initially populated by the maternal vaginal microbiome, changes produced by maternal stress can alter this initial microbe population, as well as determine many aspects of the host's immune system that are also established during this early period.” In this study, researchers utilized an established mouse model of early maternal stress, which included intervals of exposure to a predator odor, restraint, and novel noise as stressors. Two days after birth, tissue was collected from the moms using vaginal lavages, and maternal fecal pellets and offspring distal gut were then analyzed. Offspring brains were examined to measure transport of amino acids.
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