Objective The early intestinal microbiota exerts important stimuli for immune development, and a reduced microbial exposure as well as caesarean section (CS) has been associated with the development of allergic disease. Here we address how microbiota development in infants is affected by mode of delivery, and relate differences in colonisation patterns to the maturation of a balanced Th1/Th2 immune response.
Design The postnatal intestinal colonisation pattern was investigated in 24 infants, born vaginally (15) or by CS (nine). The intestinal microbiota were characterised using pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes at 1 week and 1, 3, 6, 12 and 24 months after birth. Venous blood levels of Th1- and Th2-associated chemokines were measured at 6, 12 and 24 months.
Results Infants born through CS had lower total microbiota diversity during the first 2 years of life. CS delivered infants also had a lower abundance and diversity of the Bacteroidetes phylum and were less often colonised with the Bacteroidetes phylum. Infants born through CS had significantly lower levels of the Th1-associated chemokines CXCL10 and CXCL11 in blood.
Conclusions CS was associated with a lower total microbial diversity, delayed colonisation of the Bacteroidetes phylum and reduced Th1 responses during the first 2 years of life.
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