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Author Topic: Does caesarian section affect the bacteria carried by subsequent generations?  (Read 4875 times)

Stephanie

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Stephanie asked the Naked Scientists:

I was listening to some older shows and you guys said something about a newborn recieving much of the bacteria needed by vaginal delivery.  

This made me wonder if, since I was delivered via C-Section but my children where vaginal deliveries, how does that affect them?  

If I was deprived, for lack of a better word, of certain bacteria because of my birth does that mean my children were as well even though they were vaginal deliveries?  And if they weren't, then how did I end up with the bacteria to pass on?

What do you think?


 

Offline chris

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This is a really interesting question, which I don't think anyone has the answer to yet. What we know about the bacteria that live on us and in us is that the spectrum of species present and their relative numbers are almost unique to each of us.

This floral fingerprint slowly establishes itself as we grow up, and remains stable from adolescence until the age of about 60. Undoubtedly, however, the initial bacteria that colonise us come from mum, and in the case of babies born by vaginal delivery, this is quite literally a bacterial baptism, because a newborn's first taste of life is a mouthful of muck which includes vaginal, perineal and faecal organisms.

These transit to the bowel where they colonise and begin to multiply, competing with themselves, each other and the immune system, to secure a patch of turf to call their own. The diet of the baby strongly influences the development of this microbial mosaic because breast milk, for example, contains immune elements to suppress certain pathogenic bacteria and pre-biotic factors to promote the growth of other beneficial bacteria.

Then, as the baby grows and alters its diet (weaning) the spectrum of bugs shifts again to reflect the pre-biotic effect of a solid diet. All the time the bacterial spectrum is also being complemented by the addition of novel microbial strains from the environment. Some of these will settle and flourish, finding a niche that's under-exploited by the existing flora, whilst others will be present only transiently as the native flora make them so chemically unwelcome that they fail to thrive.

Caesarian delivery, on the other hand, means that the baby picks up a very different spectrum of bugs; the first colonisers are often bacteria that live in hospitals and in the environment, rather than the natural enteric and vaginal flora from the mother. Scientists are doing studies at the moment to find out how this affects the development of the bacterial populations in a newborn's intestine, but initial studies suggest that caesarian delivery does make a difference. A German study showed a significant increase in allergy and cases of diarrhoea in caesarian-delivered babies compared with those born vaginally.

So you can see that it's really difficult to answer your question for definite. The bacteria you carry in you may have been influenced by your delivery, which means that the bacteria you pass to your children could also be slightly different; there could therefore be knock-on effects, although this is very speculative and may have no clinical impact whatsoever.

Chris
« Last Edit: 12/07/2008 18:05:18 by chris »
 

blakestyger

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What happens to the stability of the floral fingerprint after we turn 60, please?
 

Offline chris

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After 60 it begins is wobble a bit and is more easily perturbed by changes in diet, environment and general health, and is also less resilient against other pathogens and antibiotics. Patients over 60 admitted to hospitals are now routinely not treated with cephalosporin class antibiotics as this carries a high risk of triggering C. diff in these people. Younger people seem less susceptible to this occurring.

Chris
 

blakestyger

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Thanks - as I'm in that age group I'm glad to be aware of this.
 

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