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How does it all start?

Why is it that children born by

C-section have a distinct gut microbiome? Is this a cross-culture observation? 

We have multiple birth cohorts where we examine the establishment of the infant gut microbiome and the mother-to-child bacterial transmission.

How does breastfeeding effect the infant gut microbiome?

Breast milk has unique sugars called Human Milk Oligosaccharides (or HMOs), which cannot be digested by the baby and basically serve as nutrients for its gut bacteria. 

Our lab studies which gut bacteria can utilize which HMO, and how is that different across individuals.

How does the gut microbiome influence the infant health?

We are studying this question in the context of infant food allergy, and specifically the milk protein allergy. We have collected longitudinal stool samples from 100 allergic- and 100 healthy children in their first year of life. We are studying the natural history of the infant gut microbiome in the respect of the disease, specifically, searching for microbial patterns that preceded the allergy onset or influence its progress. 

The gut microbiome in pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD).

Many studies have shown the connection between the gut microbiome and IBD, and we are investigating the transmission of IBD-related bacteria from mothers with IBD to their newborns. In addition, we are studying the contribution of the pediatric gut microbiome composition to their treatment response. 

How do complex milk sugars impact the infant gut microbiome?

The third most abundant component of breastmilk is Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs). These complex sugars cannot be digested by the baby, and serve as nutrients for its gut bacteria. Basically, the mother is feeding the infant gut bacteria, shifting its composition to contain HMO-utilizing bacteria. Our lab aims to study if/how the sugar composition of the mother’s milk influences the bacterial composition of her infant’s gut.

Infant formula does not contain the HMO molecules* hence the HMO-utilizing bacteria are no longer preferable to grow in the infant’s gut. Recently (2018), the first infant formulas came out that include a single (smallest) HMO molecule (2FL).