Undeveloped microbiomes make infants more prone to illnessWild rodents spread more than 35 diseases. Pet mice and rats carry much fewer, luckily, but the diseases they do spread include rat bit fever and Leptospirosis. (credit: ArtBrom)
As every parent knows, newborns and infants are extremely prone to infections.

This increased susceptibility is typically attributed to babies’ immature immune systems—since they’re so new to the world, babies haven’t been exposed to many pathogens yet.

But there may be more to this phenomenon than previously thought.

A recent paper published in Science suggests that infants’ underdeveloped gut microbiomes may be largely responsible for their increased susceptibility to infection.
The microbiome is a diverse community of organisms living in a single environment, including environments like the bodies of larger animals.
In humans, the bulk of the microbiome is in the intestines, where these tiny organisms help us digest food and regulate some of our body’s responses to our diet. However, studying the microbiome in humans is challenging for practical and ethical reasons.

As a result, mice have the most widely studied mammalian microbiomes.
The recent Science paper provides new insights into how the microbiome interacts with a mouse’s ability to resist infection.

For this study, germ-free adult mice were given a transplant of gut contents from either neonatal mice, adolescent mice, or adult mice.

The transplant came from the first few inches of the large intestine/colon, so this transplant process was not dissimilar to a stool transplant (more commonly known as a poop transplant).

These transplants altered the gut microbiome of the recipient so that it matched the donor mouse’s.
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