The important role of gut microbiota for human health has been acknowledged. Normal delivery and breastfeeding plays an important role in the transfer and support of our ancestral microbes. C-section and antibiotics may cause disruptions in early gut microbiota composition in early life, and disruptions in this critical period may have lifelong effects on numerous functions. While we still do not fully understand the mechanism by which single components of the gut microbiota exert their effects, numerous animal experiments show the devastating effects of lack of microbes early in life. Preliminary results in our infant child cohort of 550 Norwegian children indicate that certain early markers of disruptive composition, typical of C-section infants, can also be tied to later BMI, allergy and neurodevelopment. Functional characteristics are also changed. On the other, hand we also observe associations between exposure to persistent environmental toxicants in early life and many of the same outcomes, such as BMI and neurodevelopment. Infants are under double attack. These factors may also interact; toxicants may affect gut microbiota and gut microbiota may determine the fate of toxicants in the body, further complicating the picture. More research is needed on environmental causes of disease including their possible interactions.
Merete Eggesbø is a senior researcher at Norwegian Institute of Public Health and leads a research group in environmental epidemiology. She is the PI of the prospective HUMIS & NoMIC birth cohorts, encompassing more than 2600 children and with an indebt longitudinal data collection amongst others on environmental toxicants and gut microbiota composition. The focus so far has been on understanding their role in reproductive health, growth/obesity and neuropsychological functioning. She leads several prestigious Norwegian Research council programs and participates in several EU projects. She has published 65 papers, 9 first author and 9 as last author, peer-reviewed (H-index 25, google scholar).
Michèle Bouchard, Chercheuse régulière, IRSPUM et professeure titulaire, Département de santé environnementale et santé au travail, ESPUM Titulaire de la Chaire d'analyse et de gestion des risques toxicologiques