The importance of appropriate initial bacterial colonization of the intestine in newborn, child, and adult health

Pediatr Res. 2017 Sep;82(3):387-395. doi: 10.1038/pr.2017.111. Epub 2017 May 17.


The fetus does not reside in a sterile intrauterine environment and is exposed to commensal bacteria from the maternal gut/blood stream that cross the placenta and enter the amniotic fluid. This intestinal exposure to colonizing bacteria continues at birth and during the first year of life and has a profound influence on lifelong health. Why is this important? Intestinal crosstalk with colonizing bacteria in the developing intestine affects the infant's adaptation to extrauterine life (immune homeostasis) and provides protection against disease expression (allergy, autoimmune disease, obesity, etc.) later in life. Colonizing intestinal bacteria are critical to the normal development of host defense. Disrupted colonization (dysbiosis) due to maternal dysbiosis, cesarean section delivery, use of perinatal antibiotics, or premature delivery may adversely affect the gut development of host defense and predispose to inflammation rather than to homeostasis, leading to increased susceptibility to disease later in life. Babies born by cesarean section have a higher incidence of allergy, type 1 diabetes, and obesity. Infants given repeated antibiotic regimens during the first year of life are more likely to have asthma as adolescents. This research breakthrough helps to explain the shift in disease paradigms from infections to immune-mediated in children from developed countries. This review will develop this research breakthrough.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Child
  • Dysbiosis / prevention & control
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn