Infants born to mothers with IBD present with altered gut microbiome that transfers abnormalities of the adaptive immune system to germ-free mice

Gut. 2020 Jan;69(1):42-51. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2018-317855. Epub 2019 Apr 29.


Background and aims: Prenatal and early life bacterial colonisation is thought to play a major role in shaping the immune system. Furthermore, accumulating evidence links early life exposures to the risk of developing IBD later in life. We aimed to assess the effect of maternal IBD on the composition of the microbiome during pregnancy and on the offspring's microbiome.

Methods: We prospectively examined the diversity and taxonomy of the microbiome of pregnant women with and without IBD and their babies at multiple time points. We evaluated the role of maternal IBD diagnosis, the mode of delivery, antibiotic use and feeding behaviour on the microbiome composition during early life. To assess the effects of IBD-associated maternal and infant microbiota on the enteric immune system, we inoculated germ-free mice (GFM) with the respective stool and profiled adaptive and innate immune cell populations in the murine intestines.

Results: Pregnant women with IBD and their offspring presented with lower bacterial diversity and altered bacterial composition compared with control women and their babies. Maternal IBD was the main predictor of the microbiota diversity in the infant gut at 7, 14, 30, 60 and 90 days of life. Babies born to mothers with IBD demonstrated enrichment in Gammaproteobacteria and depletion in Bifidobacteria. Finally, GFM inoculated with third trimester IBD mother and 90-day infant stools showed significantly reduced microbial diversity and fewer class-switched memory B cells and regulatory T cells in the colon.

Conclusion: Aberrant gut microbiota composition persists during pregnancy with IBD and alters the bacterial diversity and abundance in the infant stool. The dysbiotic microbiota triggered abnormal imprinting of the intestinal immune system in GFM.

Keywords: early life microbiome; inflammatory bowel disease; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Dysbiosis / immunology
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation / methods
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Germ-Free Life
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / immunology
  • Pregnancy Complications / microbiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / immunology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / microbiology*
  • Prospective Studies