Environmental pollutant exposure associated with altered early-life gut microbiome: Results from a birth cohort study

By Nathalia F. Naspolini, Armando Meyer, Josino C. Moreira, Haipeng Sun, Carmen IR Froes-Asmus, and Maria G. Dominguez-Bello
Environ Res
December 20, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.112545

Emerging evidence shows that the gut microbiota interacts with environmental pollutants, but the effect of early exposure on the neonatal microbiome remains unknown. We investigated the association between maternal exposure to environmental pollutants and changes in early-life gut microbiome development. We surveyed 16S rRNA gene on meconium and fecal samples (at 1, 3, and 6 months) from the Brazilian birth cohort, and associated with levels of metals, perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS), and pesticides in maternal and umbilical cord blood. The results indicate that the magnitude of the microbiome changes associated with increasing pollutant exposure was bigger in cesarean-section (CS) born and CS-born-preterm babies, in relation to vaginally (VG) delivered infants. Breastfeeding was associated with a stronger pollutant-associated effect on the infant feces, suggesting that the exposure source could be maternal milk. Differences in microbiome effects associated with maternal or cord blood pollutant concentrations suggest that fetal exposure time - intrauterine or perinatal - may matter. Finally, despite the high developmental microbiota variability, specific microbionts were consistently affected across all pollutants, with taxa clusters found in samples from infants exposed to the highest toxicant exposure. The results evidence that perinatal exposure to environmental pollutants is associated with alterations in gut microbiome development which may have health significance.


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