Another heads up from Paul Patterson and his blog Infectious Behaviour on bacteria.
A quick whirl around the internet and an April 2012 article published at New Scientist caught my eye.
Babies are born dirty, with a gutful of bacteria
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“IT HAS long been assumed that the fetus lives in a sterile world, protected from the countless bacteria that fill its mother’s gut and cover the surface of her body. A baby’s first gut flora was thought to be collected at birth – either from the mother’s vagina or from the environment it is born into. But it’s time for a drastic rethink: it appears that we are in fact born dirty – bacteria colonise our guts in the womb, where they begin to shape our immune systems and influence our risk of disease. What’s more, this collection of bacteria, or microbiome, could eventually be manipulated to ensure a baby is given the healthiest start in life.”
“The team not only identified bacteria in the babies’ meconium – which before then was thought to be sterile – they found bacterial communities so developed that they seemed to fall into two categories. Around half of the samples appeared to be dominated by bacteria that produce lactic acid, such as lactobacillus, while the other half mostly contained a family of so-called enteric bacteria, such as Escherichia coli.”
“The group were surprised to find that infants born with more lactic acid bacteria were significantly more likely to develop asthma-like symptoms, while those born with more enteric bacteria were at a greater risk of eczema.
These first bacterial communities also appeared to be linked to the mothers’ lifestyles. All of the university-educated women in the study gave birth to babies with a lactic acid bacteria-dominated microbiome, while the majority of women who had not been educated beyond age 12 had babies whose guts were dominated by enteric bacteria.”
…and if you thought that was a shift in thinking read this …
Bugs in your personality
“The bacteria that line our intestines are known to be vital for health – but they may influence personality, too.
The latest research suggests that a healthy gut flora is necessary for normal behaviour. Mice bred in sterile environments to lack a microbiome tend to behave rather strangely, says Stephen Collins at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. “They’re uninhibited, and have impaired learning abilities,” he says. Transferring a regular mouse’s gut bacteria to such mice returns their behaviour to normal.
Collins’s team extended this experiment by swapping the gut bacteria of two strains of mice. One strain of Swiss mouse is known to be aggressive, tending to bite its handlers. So-called BALB/c mice are gentler and much more friendly.
When the group took gut bacteria from the faeces of Swiss mice and fed them to germ-free BALB/c mice, the good-natured mice acted more aggressively. Correspondingly, feeding Swiss mice bacteria from a BALB/c mouse made them less aggressive.
When the group analysed the brains of each strain, they found that the bacterial transplants had triggered changes in levels of a brain protein involved in mood and anxiety (Gastroenterology, DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.04.052).”