A research team with the participation of the Institute for Integrative Systems Biology (I2SysBio) of the University of Valencia, together with FISABIO and CIBERESP, has carried out the first metatranscriptomic study of the gut microbiota of babies, which has allowed to unveil the metabolism of the intestinal bacterial community during the first year of life, with a level of detail unknown until now.

This work has also involved researchers from the Joint Unit in Genomics and Health of the Foundation for the Promotion of Health and Biomedical Research of the Valencian Community (FISABIO) and the Biomedical Research Consortium in Epidemiology and Public Health Network (CIBERESP), dependent on the Carlos III Health Institute.

The environment is very important in the first years of life, both for the baby and for the bacteria of its gut microbiota. Bacteria and humans coexist in a harmonious symbiosis: people share with them the food they eat, which helps them to metabolise (10% of the energy obtained from food is as a consequence of bacterial action). In addition, bacteria influence the development of the immune and nervous systems.

Thus, the study has examined the expression of all the bacterial genes that are part of the intestinal flora of the baby from faecal samples obtained at 4 time points throughout the first year of life: 7 days after birth and at 3, 7 and 12 months old. The analysis was also performed on samples of the mothers obtained one week before the birth and one year later.

The most striking finding of the study is the evidence of activity of bacteria that produce butyrate in the baby’s intestine before the solid diet is introduced. This fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties and that serves as food for cells of the intestinal wall is of recognised importance for health in adults, but until now it was thought that it was not so relevant in babies.

Read more: R&I World