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Mode of Delivery at Birth Linked to Child’s Skin Microbiome

Mode of Delivery at Birth Linked to Child’s Skin Microbiome

Written by Dr. Kaushik Bharati, MSc, PhD, FRSPH (London)
Medically Reviewed by 
The Medindia Medical Review Team on August 13, 2019 at 6:26 PM
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  • Mode of delivery strongly influences children’s skin microbiome
  • The bacterial population of the skin of children resembles that of their mothers
  • Cesarean or vaginal delivery particularly impact the facial bacterial composition

Mode of delivery affects a child's skin microbiome, reveals new research from Fudan University in China. The composition of the skin microbiota of newborns is important for healthy skin development in children and maturation of the immune system into adulthood.

The study indicates that the skin microbiome of children closely resembles that of their own mothers than to other women. Importantly, the mode of delivery at birth is a key factor that determines the child's skin microbiome in the future.

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Mode of Delivery at Birth Linked to Child’s Skin Microbiome

The study, which has been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, was led by Professor Zhe-Xue Quan, PhD, Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.

Human Skin and Its Microbiome

The skin, which consists of three layers, acts as a barrier that protects the body against toxic insult. These include harmful pathogens, chemicals, as well as environmental pollutants.

The human skin microbiome consists of over ten billion bacteria per 1.8 square meters. This skin microbiome accounts for a major portion of the body's total microbiome and is capable of interacting with the immune system in various ways. The bacteria that colonize the skin can be either beneficial or harmful for the body, depending on the microenvironment of the skin.

Key Features of the Study

  • 158 children between the ages of 1-10 years were included in the study
  • Mothers of 50 children were randomly selected to represent children belonging to each age group
  • Skin microbiota changes were analyzed to examine the relationship between the skin microbiome and skin microenvironment
  • Skin microbiota composition was compared between the children and their mothers
  • 16S rRNA (ribosomal ribonucleic acid) gene amplicon sequencing was used to compare the skin microbiomes of the children and mothers
  • Skin microbiome samples were collected from the following three sites:
    • Central portion of the cheek
    • Central portion of the calf
    • A quarter of the distance along the forearm from the hand
  • Data generated from the three skin sites per child (total 474 samples) were pooled into 36 groups and stratified based on age, sex, and site of sample collection
"To date, research into the maternal influence on her child's skin microbiome has been mostly limited to a narrow postpartum window in children younger than one-year-old and fewer studies have explored the maternal relationship with the child's microflora after infancy," explains Quan. He adds: "Therefore, we expanded the scope of our analysis to include sampling from different body sites and direct comparison to the mother of the child in order to provide novel insights."

Key Findings and Concluding Remarks

  • The skin microbiota of children primarily depended on their age and site of sample collection
  • The microbiota composition differed significantly between the three sites
  • Negative correlation between children's age and abundance of the bacteria Streptococcus and Granulicatella was observed
  • Relative abundance of children's bacterial genera was more similar to their mothers than unrelated women
  • Cesarean section or vaginal delivery strongly influenced the facial bacterial composition of children aged 10 years

"By analyzing the microbial community structure at three very different skin sites of children, we demonstrated that the skin microbiome is strongly impacted by the surrounding microenvironment and that the alpha diversity of the skin microbiome increases during childhood," noted Quan.

"Our results suggest that the bacterial population on a child's skin is to a large extent similar to that of their mothers and is affected in the long-term by the way they were delivered at birth. One possible explanation is that the developing skin microbiome interacts with the immune system, which may be educated by exposure to microbes during a critical window early in life. It means that microbial colonization runs in parallel with immune system development."

Funding Source

The study was funded by Johnson & Johnson, the American multinational pharmaceutical and medical devices company, headquartered in New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Reference :
  1. Age and Mothers: Potent Influences of Children's Skin Microbiota - (https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(19)31757-9/fulltext)

Source: Medindia

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