PerspectiveMicrobiology

Maternal microbiota in pregnancy and early life

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Science  06 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6457, pp. 984-985
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay0618

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Summary

A microbial bond is shared between mother and child that renders the age-old dichotomy of “nature versus nurture” obsolete. Molded by both host biology and the physical relationship between mother and child, this microbial connection is formed at the earliest moments of life when the newborn's skin and mucosal surfaces are seeded with microorganisms that inhabit the mother's body, referred to as the maternal microbiota. This initial microbial exposure establishes an early-life microbiota that engages in a mutualistic relationship with the host, and leaves a lasting impression on childhood development that can control the balance between health and disease. The quest to understand this microbial bond has uncovered exciting new discoveries about host–microbial mutualism and immune development in early life, while simultaneously revolutionizing our understanding of how certain traits and diseases are passed down through generations.

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