Could C-Section Babies Benefit From This?
Small study suggests it's possible to partially restore good bacteria to cesarean infants
By Karen Pallarito
MONDAY, Feb. 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Dabbing infants delivered by cesarean section with their mothers' vaginal secretions restores some of the potentially helpful bacteria that newborns naturally pick up when they pass through the birth canal, a small study finds.
The researchers said their "proof of principle" study is the first to show it's possible to transfer some of those germs, which play a role in immune-system development.
Whether this can protect C-section babies from developing diseases such as asthma remains to be seen, however.
With this experimental technique, the vaginal bacteria "pick up and bloom" in different sites of the baby's body, "resembling vaginally delivered babies," study lead author Maria Dominguez-Bello, associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone in New York City, said in a conference call to discuss the findings.
The study was published online Feb. 1 in the journal Nature Medicine.
Everyone has bacteria that reside in and on the body, including the mouth, skin, gut and vagina. Collectively, these communities of germs make up the human "microbiome."
Early exposure to germs, or "microbes," in the birth canal teaches newborns' immune systems to distinguish between helpful and harmful bacteria, the study authors explained.
According to Gregory Buck, professor of microbiology and immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, "Those bacteria can establish themselves in the gut, the skin, the eyes, other orifices of the baby that are exposed."
Swabbing a C-section baby with mom's secretions is "a less intensive exposure to the bacteria" than a baby would have during vaginal delivery, said Buck. He is principal investigator of a U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded project examining how vaginal bacteria affect preterm birth.
Scientists believe C-sections disrupt development of the natural microbiome. Cesarean babies have a greater risk of asthma, allergies, obesity and autoimmune diseases later in life, although studies haven't proven a direct cause-and-effect relationship, the authors of the new study said.
In the United States, close to one in three births is a C-section delivery, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.