Julia Chivu ’22
A mother’s influence on her offspring’s health is present even in the microbes found in her child’s gut. A recent study by associate professor Amy Lu at Stony Brook University and a research team from the Arizona State University hypothesized that bacteria present in the gut of infant geladas are highly influenced by their mothers. The study investigated wild geladas–non-human primates found in Ethiopia–to determine the diversity, composition, and maturation of the bacteria in the offspring during and after weaning off of the mother’s milk.
16S rRNA amplicon sequencing was used to analyze types of gut microbiota present in gelada young for the first three years of life. This form of sequencing identified 3,784 types of bacteria present in infant guts. Statistical analysis models were used to identify changes in microbe composition, including microbial diversity indexes and autoregressive integrated moving averages. To compare the maturation of the microbes found in both the infant and mother geladas, fecal samples were analyzed.
It was found that the bacteria present in the gut of the young increased as they grew older. This finding suggests that bacterial diversity increases due to an increase in food sources. The food supply also impacted the composition of the bacteria, as the infant’s diet changed from dairy-based to plant-based after weaning. Offspring from first-time mothers had slower bacteria development, whereas mothers with multiple offspring had rapid microbe maturation rates. Researchers suggested that the microbe maturation rate may be directly correlated to the fast development of the infants. Furthermore, there was a significant association between the microbes found in the mother’s gut to those in the young’s gut, likely due to the microbial transfer via the mother’s milk during feeding. Ultimately, the bacteria a mother gelada transmits can impact the growth, immune system, maturation, and reproduction of the young throughout their lives. These findings are crucial since the gelada and the human species have very similar microbes found in their guts as infants.
 A. Baniel, et al., Maternal effects on early-life gut microbiota maturation in a wild nonhuman primate. ScienceDirect, (2022).
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