As we have heard time and time again, the microbes found in our gut as part of our microbiome are essential for many aspects of our lives, but particularly those in infants.

Now, to further research into how we can protect both infants and mothers during the early years, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)-funded centre APC Microbiome Ireland has been asked to lead a new €3.4m research initiative to find optimal probiotics for pregnant women and their babies.

The Microbe Mom project is a four-way collaboration between APC Microbiome, Irish healthcare company Alimentary Health, the University College Dublin Perinatal Research Centre and the National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT).

While much research to date has addressed the impact of the environment on the microbiota, the Microbe Mom research project will focus on the transfer of specific strains of bacteria from mother to baby and, in particular, the Bifidobacteria strains.

Importance of sugar control

Bifidobacteria are the main bacteria that nature selects for the newborn gut and have been shown to play a key role in programming metabolism and the immune system, including in the development of allergy and asthma risk.

Bifidobacteria have received significant attention due to their proven contribution to human gut health and the use of specific strains as probiotics,” said Microbe Mom’s project leader, Dr Paul Cotter.

“Advances in DNA sequencing technology allow us to develop scientifically proven and clinically supported probiotic Bifidobacteriaand investigate their transfer from mom to baby.”

Normal sugar control is important in pregnancy to prevent worsening insulin resistance; however, abnormal sugar control affects up to 15pc of pregnancies.

Dr Eileen Murphy, technical director of Alimentary Health, added: “This research is key to understanding which bacteria make a key difference to baby. It’s also vital to understand how they can best be transferred to baby, too, eg should they be given to the mother during pregnancy or should we give them directly to baby?

“This knowledge will help us develop a range of probiotics with the precise qualities we need to optimise maternal and baby health.”

Colm Gorey

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