ProVen Professional - Category - Early immune system development
Early immune system development
The in utero environment requires that the baby’s immune system is subdued to tolerate maternal alloantigens and the changes and stress involved in development.
After birth however, there is a sudden enormous exposure to environmental antigens, many of them derived from intestinal commensal bacteria. This means that the baby’s immune system must adapt quickly to produce immune responses to support early life. Microbes play a critical role in these postnatal immune responses.
Establishing a healthy gut microbiome
The infant microbiota is established immediately at birth when bacteria are transmitted from mother to baby.
Research has shown a significant difference between the microbiome of vaginally-delivered and C-section infants. Babies delivered vaginally have been shown to harbour bacteria resembling their own mother’s vaginal microbiota, whilst C-section infants acquire bacteria similar to those found on the skin surface.
During the first year of life, the diversity of the bacteria in the microbiota then increases to drive the development of the immune system and ultimately ensure that the bacteria is recognised by the immune system as ‘self’.
Development of the infant gut bacteria
Breast milk has been shown to be a source of a wide range of bacteria for the infant gut and potentially to be specific for each infant. Interestingly, breast milk has been shown to contain microbes typically associated with the gut.
Antibiotics given, even briefly, during the first year of life have been shown to alter the constitution of the infant microbiota by depleting the bacterial diversity and its ability to colonise the gut. This change to the development of the microbiota is likely to have long-term implications for health, as a higher level of beneficial bacteria is associated with lower levels of atopic disease and obesity in children and adults.
Probiotics have been shown to support the development of the infant gut bacteria and specifically to help reduce the incidence of allergy . They may be particularly efficacious in instances where antibiotics have been required.