Jordyn Wallenborn PhD, MCAH postdoctoral fellow, is leading one of the first pilot studies on similarities between breast milk, meconium (i.e. first feces of a newborn), and gut microbial profiles among 10 mother-infant dyads from the Venda Health Examination of Mothers, Babies and their Environment (VHEMBE) Study (Prinicpal Investigator: Dr. Brenda Eskenazi).
The microbiome, or -- “the collective genomes of the microbes (composed of bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live inside and on the human body (1)”, may be a predictor of health status. Indeed, previous literature has suggested that infant ingestion of the prolific bacterial communities in breastmilk may promote gut microbial development and immunologic programming, and reduce the likelihood of infections.
However, very few studies investigate the role of breastmilk microbiota on infant gut microbial development and no study has provided empirical evidence supporting the effect on health. Dr. Wallenborn’s findings will provide support for causal hypotheses regarding the influence of breastmilk microbiome on childhood development, disease susceptibility and progression, and gut microbial development.
Dr. Wallenborn is also developing a proposal to identify determinants of breastmilk microbial diversity, examine the impact of breastmilk microbial richness and diversity on child health over the life course, and identify pasteurization methods that retain optimal levels of breastmilk microbiota.
(1)Yang, J. (2012). The Human Microbiome Project: Extending the definition of what constitutes a human.