A major research project involving Cork-based APC Microbiome Ireland may see missing microbes being added to infant supplements or formula to rebalance babies’ gut bacteria.
Babies’ gut bacteria can be upset after antibiotic exposure or Caesarean-section birth — and APC Microbiome Ireland, a pioneer in the field of microbiome science, will look at ways to rebalance the microbiota.
The ‘Missing Microbes in Infants born by C-section’ project to improve infant health is funded jointly by Science Foundation Ireland’s Spokes Programme and DuPont.
The €6.3m four-year project was announced at an event attended by both organisations in Washington DC to celebrate US-Ireland research and development collaborations.
APC Microbiome Ireland director Paul Ross said they have been working with DuPont on the genesis of the project over the last two years.
He said the population of bacteria in the gut developed over the first four years of life and plays a key role in human health. However, the microbiome is influenced by birth mode, antibiotic use and nutrition, including breast milk components.
“We are searching for the missing microbes as a result of antibiotic exposure or C-section birth,” said Mr Ross. The missing microbes could be included in supplements or infant milk formula.
Mr Ross said APC Microbiome Ireland are delighted to further develop their relationship with DuPont for the benefit of human health.
The hope is that we will be able to replenish the baby with the missing microbes in time and offset the effects of early life negative factors such as c-section and either maternal or infant antibiotics.
Mr Ross said there is a growing concern about atopic diseases such as eczema and asthma in infants.
“These are diseases of the immune system and there is a theory that maybe the immune system has not been educated enough in early life,” he said. “It could be because the child’s gut is missing those microbes from early life events.”
Based at University College Cork and Teagasc Moorepark, Fermoy Co Cork, APC Microbiome Ireland is a pioneer in the field of microbiome science, which focuses on microbes that live in and on the body and play a significant role in human health.
APC Microbiome Ireland project leader Catherine Stanton said they have expanded the research and development capabilities of Ireland in an area of immediate relevance to the food and pharmaceutical sectors of industry.
“This project will allow us to identify the gut microbes in early life that play an important role in the short and long-term health of individuals and will help to develop strategies to balance the microbiota following antibiotic exposure or C-section birth mode,” she said.