The first few months and years of a child’s life are essential in shaping the intestinal microbiome which rapidly develops during this time, reaching a relative stability by toddlerhood that generally lasts into adulthood. Hence this early period may be critical for shaping future health and preventing the development of many diseases.
Even prior to birth, factors have been identified that may affect the early microbiome development. Premature infants are at increased risk of an imbalance in gut bacteria and delayed or disturbed gut colonization for many reasons including an immature gut and immune system, increased exposure to antibiotics and delayed feeding. They are also at increased risk of many disorders associated with gut bacteria imbalance compared to infants who are born full term.
At Inova Translational Medicine Institute (ITMI) we are conducting a longitudinal microbiome study of babies born prematurely and in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and following then into early childhood to examine why and how disturbances in gut bacteria develop and how they may lead to early childhood health problems such as necrotizing enterocolitis, obesity and allergies. Using the latest technology, we hope to gain better insight into how disturbances of the microbiota cause disease, alter immune function and interact with the human genome. This knowledge is essential to enable future possible microbiota manipulation in childhood and prevention of disease.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
Inova Fairfax Hospital
3300 Gallows Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
Suchi Hourigan, MD
Rajiv Baveja, MD
- Admitted to the NICU with anticipated stay of more than 5 days
Hourigan SK, Ta A, Wong SW, Clemency N, Provenzano MG, Baveja R, Iyer R, Klein E, Niederhuber JE. The microbiome in necrotizing enterocolitis: A case report in twins and mini-review. Clin Ther. 2016 Mar 9. [Epub ahead of print]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26970697