The whole set of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms living in a particular habitat conform what is known as microbiota. We can find microbiota in our environment (in the leaf of a tree, in a volcanic stone, in the Arctic ice…), as well as in our organism (in the skin, in the intestine, in the mouth…).
In the last years a number of studies in animals and humans have identified the potential role that microbiota plays on the development and functioning of the immune system and the subsequent health impacts (e.g. asthma, diabetis, inflammatory bowel diseases or even neurological disorders). A number of factors have been found to be important determinants of microbiota composition in early life, including mode of delivery, antibiotics intake, breastfeeding, or household characteristics (e.g. presence of pets or siblings at home). However, little is known about how other environmental factors, such as air pollution, are impacting human gut microbiota and the health implications.
This is why at birth we are collecting meconium samples (the first stool of the baby after birth) and soon we will start collecting stool samples at the age of 6 months. With the information obtained from these two samples, we will be able to track the evolution of the gut microbiota of the BiSC babies and explore whether early exposure to air pollution influences the type of bacteria present in the gut, the diversity and metabolic activity of the gut flora, and whether these influences have an impact on children’s health later in life.
The text has been written by Mireia Gascón, a researcher from the BiSC project.