A Fukui University team has discovered a connection between a child’s development and the amount of bacteria in a mother’s intestines – even after birth.

In a report published by American journal PLOS ONE on 20 January, the team performed a series of tests on mice mothers and children by administering antibiotics to disrupt their balance of gut bacteria. They found that the offspring of mice with reduced bacteria in their intestines had roughly 12 percent less body weight compared to those born from regular mice.

Several other abnormalities were observed as well such as reduced movement, lower nocturnal activity, and a tendency to only move along the walls of enclosures due to anxiousness.

Oh Ginger… What’s the matter? Didn’t your mother have enough intestinal bacteria?

Due to this, it is believed that the presence of gut bacteria in the mother is more important to the development of their children than initially thought, as the child ingests some of the microbes and uses them for their own growth when passing through the birth canal. Afterwards, more of these benevolent organisms are passed from mother to child through breast feeding.

The researchers also took mother mice with normal intestinal bacteria who delivered babies and then soon after lowered their levels. Although the weights were fine, certain developmental disorders in the young mice, such as reduced activity at night, appeared. They also reversed the test by giving mice that were born from mothers with reduced bacteria to regular mothers and found that they had normal behavior. These findings suggest that the bacteria levels are just as important after birth as during pregnancy.

Why this happens is uncertain, but the Fukui University team is anxious to unravel the mechanisms at work here. Ultimately they hope to develop treatments or screening methods for developmental disorders, but in the mean time, Associate Researcher Shiro Tochitani advises mothers and mothers-to-be to try to keep their intestinal bacteria regulated by eating probiotics like yogurt.

That’s actually quite noble advice since this study was partially funded by Yakult, the makers of a widely-used fermented milk drink in Japan and rival of yogurt. We’ll go ahead an plug it as a good probiotic option for mothers too, since Tochitani is too classy to do it himself.

Source: PLOS ONE (English) via Yahoo! Japan News (Japanese)
Top Image: Wikipedia/NIAID (Edited by RocketNews24)

Video: YouTube/Matthew Bayliss