Babies from Caesarean section births have more potentially pathogenic bacteria in the body

Babies from Caesarean section births have more potentially pathogenic bacteria in the body

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Why the microbiome is different in Caesarean section babies

It makes a significant difference for a newborn's microbiome whether babies were born through a caesarean section or vaginally. When babies are born through a cesarean section, they carry a lot more bacteria that can be associated with hospitals.

The latest study by University College London found that it makes a big difference to the microbiome of babies whether they are born naturally or through a caesarean section. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Nature".

What do opportunistic pathogens do?

Babies are sterile in the womb, and the moment they are born is a moment when the immune system is confronted with a large number of bacteria, the researchers explain. The moment of birth virtually sets the immune system for future life. The types of bacteria that are more common in babies after Caesarean section birth are also known as opportunistic pathogens. These bacteria can cause illness if the immune system is not working properly. They can also get to places in the human body where they shouldn't be, such as tissue or bloodstream. The differences in bacterial colonization in babies extend into early childhood, the researchers explain.

Caesarean section babies have an increased risk of immune-related diseases

The long-term consequences of the changed microbiome are not known, so it is important that these findings are followed up with additional research to better understand the effects. Earlier research had shown that babies born through a caesarean section were at slightly higher risk for immune-related diseases such as asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases and other allergic diseases.

Samples from almost 600 babies were examined

To learn more about the development of the microbiome and the effects of the birth method, the researchers examined 1,679 samples of intestinal bacteria from almost 600 healthy babies and 175 mothers. Stool samples were taken from four, seven or 21 day old babies born in British hospitals through either vaginal delivery or caesarean section. Some babies were followed up later up to the age of one year.

Caesarean section babies

The study found that babies born through caesarean section carry more of the bacteria found in hospitals. When the researchers isolated and sequenced the genome of more than 800 bacteria, they found that they were the same strains that often cause bloodstream infections in hospitals. If women in the UK have a cesarean section, they are given antibiotics before birth to prevent the mother from developing post-operative infections. This means that the baby also receives a dose of antibiotics from the placenta, and this could cause some of the microbiome differences between the two birth methods. However, the exact role of the microbiome in the newborn and what factors change it remains uncertain. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Yan Shao, Samuel C. Forster, Evdokia Tsaliki, Kevin Vervier, Angela Strang et al .: Stunted microbiota and opportunistic pathogen colonization in caesarean-section birth, in Nature (query: 19.09.2019), Nature

Video: Genetics 101 (September 2022).


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