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Delivery Method May Determine the Bacteria Babies Acquire
Date:6/21/2010

Finding may explain why C-section babies seem more likely to develop allergies, asthma, study suggests

MONDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- Babies who are born vaginally pick up different bacteria than those who are delivered by cesarean section, potentially affecting how their immune systems develop, a new study suggests.

The findings could provide more insight into why babies born through cesarean sections appear to be more at risk of allergies and asthma, researchers say. The bacteria they're exposed to at birth may help explain the relationship, since coming into contact with germs seems to help babies build defenses against them.

"We want to understand what the differences are and how they are important for the baby's health," said study author Maria G. Dominguez-Bello, an associate professor in the department of biology at the University of Puerto Rico.

The research is preliminary, she said, but it could help determine whether babies will benefit by being exposed to germs at birth that they otherwise wouldn't encounter.

While germs may sound like a bad thing, they're often beneficial to the body.

"We are all colonized -- our skin, mouth, intestines, vagina, ears -- by bacteria that have evolved with man," Dominguez-Bello said. "We are just now starting to unveil what these bacteria are, what they do, why they are important for organs to function." Colonization means the organism is present but not causing infection

In the new study, researchers aimed to determine what types of germs colonize the bodies of babies as they're born. (The womb itself is free of germs, Dominguez-Bello noted.)

The researchers tested bacteria from the skin and mouths of 10 babies within a day after their birth. They also tested bacteria from their mothers.

Those who were born vaginally clearly picked up bacteria from their mothers since the germs matched. Those germs, which were
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