Technique Helps C-Section Babies Get Missing Beneficial Bacteria

It is well known that babies born through Cesarean sections have fewer beneficial bacteria, compared to vaginal births. Researchers are now reporting that one technique could help to restore the missing microbes.Pregnant Woman

In their study, scientists from Rutgers University found that swabbing babies delivered via Cesarean section (C-section) with their mother’s vaginal fluid helped to restore beneficial bacteria to them. The team observed that this technique known as vaginal seeding engrafted new maternal bacteria strains in the newborns’ bodies.

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“Our study is the first double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial to determine whether vaginal seeding causes maternal bacteria to engraft in the skin of neonates,” stated Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, the Henry Rutgers Professor of Microbiome and Health at Rutgers University and a study author.

Newborns that are not up to 28 days old are described as neonates.

The researchers noted that the observed maternal strains would usually be absent in babies born through C-sections. This is because such do not pass through the vaginal canal.

This study is reported in the journal mBio.

Missing bacteria in C-section deliveries

According to a large body of research, there are notable microbiome differences between cesarean-delivery babies and vaginal-birth babies.

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The microbiome is described as the pool of genomes or vital genetic material from the community of microbes in an environment. A related term, microbiota, is said to describe the microorganisms present within that environment, such as the gut.

Going by research spanning decades, the community of microbes plays crucial roles in multiple aspects of health. Dominguez-Bello and other researchers have also posited that C-section delivery could deprive newborns of early exposure to beneficial bacteria.

This lack of exposure makes a baby more exposed to certain risks. Scientists have, for instance, found that this can disrupt metabolic and immune programming. This raises the risk of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, allergies, and asthma.

Promising method for restoring bacterial balance

These researchers got microbiota samples from both the skin and the stool of 20 babies at two different times. The first was when the infants were a day old and the second when they became one-month old.

Facilitators and participants in the study did not know which babies were swabbed with vaginal fluid or got a placebo after birth. The effects of vaginal seeding on the neonates’ microbiota were striking, the researchers noted.

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Dominguez-Bello and her colleagues observed that the maternal microbe strains became engrafted in the newborns. They found that the seeded babies had a different population of bacteria on their skin, compared to babies who got a placebo.

The researchers said the microbiomes of the treated babies displayed a kind of bacterial diversity that was more typical of vaginal-birth babies who were breastfed.

The team of scientists plans to keep examining the microbiomes of the infants for the next five years. It will watch the microbiome growth patterns and see if any metabolic or immune disease markers emerge.

There is also a plan to increase the number of babies in the study while also probing infant health outcomes.


Mueller, N. T., Differding, M. K., Sun, H., Wang, J., Levy, S., Deopujari, V., Appel, L. J., Blaser, M. J., Kundu, T., Shah, A. A., Dominguez Bello, M. G., & Hourigan, S. K. (2023). Maternal Bacterial Engraftment in Multiple Body Sites of Cesarean Section Born Neonates after Vaginal Seeding—a Randomized Controlled Trial. mBio.



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