Microbiota from various maternal sites, including the gut, vagina and breast milk, are known to influence colonization in infants. However, emerging evidence suggests that these sites may exert their influence prior to delivery, in turn influencing fetal immune development. The dogma of a sterile womb continues to be challenged. Regardless, there is convincing evidence that the composition of the maternal gut prior to delivery influences neonatal immunity. Therefore, while the presence and function of placental microbiome is not clear, there is consensus that the gut microbiota during pregnancy is a critical determinant of offspring health. Data supporting the notion of bacterial translocation from the maternal gut to extra-intestinal sites during pregnancy are emerging, and potentially explain the presence of bacteria in breast milk. Much evidence suggests that the maternal gut microbiota during pregnancy potentially determines the development of atopy and autoimmune phenotypes in offspring. Here, we highlight the role of the maternal microbiota prior to delivery on infant immunity and predisposition to diseases. Moreover, we discuss potential mechanisms that underlie this phenomenon.
Keywords: infant immunity; microbiota; pregnancy.
© 2019 British Society for Immunology.