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Vaginal microbiota can be partially restored in c-section babies: study

Vaginal microbiota can be partially restored in c-section babies: study - Featured Image

A pilot study has demonstrated that vaginal microbes can be partially restored in babies delivered by a caesarean section.

The microbes in a woman’s vagina colonises the skin, oral cavity and gut of babies as they’re born, contributing to their future immune system. Some research says the lack of exposure to vaginal microbiota in babies born via C-section can lead to health problems later on.

Related: Anti-caesarean drive “misguided”

Maria Dominguez-Bello, Jose Clemente and colleagues set up a vaginal microbial transfer, where four C-section delivered babies were swabbed with gauze that had been incubating in their mother’s vagina for an hour prior to the birth.

The small study then compared the babies’ microbiota with seven c-section infants not exposed to vaginal fluids and seven babies born vaginally.

They found that after 30 days c-section infants exposed to vaginal fluids had microbiota more similar to vaginally born infants than to c-section born infants not exposed to vaginal fluids. However they also noted that only some of microbes transferred.

“Although the long-term health consequences of restoring the microbiota of C-section–delivered infants remain unclear, our results demonstrate that vaginal microbes can be partially restored at birth in C-section–delivered babies,” they wrote in Nature Medicine.

Bookshop: Caesarean Section: a Manual for Doctors

However Associate Professor Andrew Holmes from the Discipline of Microbiology in the School of Molecular Bioscience and the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney says the paper has been “essentially meaningless in terms of scientific insight or clinical application”.

He said that there isn’t enough data collected to make a meaningful comment and that the authors are testing a solution to an idea that few in the industry feel is likely to be a significant issue.

“All this article does is raise doubts in women’s minds about the implications of a C-section birth and leave them prone to considering an intervention that did not appear to work,” he said.

In an accompanying News & Views article, Alexander Khoruts wrote: “Going forward, large randomized trials with long-term clinical outcomes will be needed to learn whether any benefits can be derived from supplementing C-section delivery with some restorative microbiota treatments.”

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