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Babys Poop is of Interest for Researchers

When a baby is born, so too is a new microbial ecosystem in the baby's gut. The Stanford team has made the most extensive survey yet of how the microbes establish flourishing communities in what began as a sterile environment. Their findings will be published in the July issue of Public Library of Science-Biology.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine are as interested in a baby's poop as doting parents are, and for good reason.

"It's an amazing thing trying to figure out how we go from a completely sterile gut to having a microbial ecosystem that will be with us for the rest of our lives," said the study's senior author, Patrick Brown, MD, PhD, professor of biochemistry. "What could be more fundamental than that.

Looking at stool samples from 14 healthy, full-term infants over their first year of life, including one set of fraternal twins, the researchers found that each baby had very different microbes colonizing their intestinal tracts at different stages.

"This study emphasizes that the definition of a 'healthy' baby is pretty broad," said the article's lead author Chana Palmer, PhD, who was a graduate student in Brown's lab at the time the work was done. She noted that by the end of the first year, despite the chaos of the early months, each baby's intestinal ecology remained unique but harbored dynamic, complex societies of microbes similar to that found in adults' intestines.

The gut of a baby is a rapidly evolving place. It has no inhabitants before birth. Within days of an infant's delivery, the microbial immigrants in the gut establish a thriving community whose population soon outnumbers that of the baby's own cells tenfold, a ratio that persists throughout life.

"It's really striking the degree to which the patterns of bacterial abundance were so dynamic over time," said David Relman, MD, a collaborator on the work. "Things appear and then things suddenly drop
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