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The Power of Maternal Microbes on Infant Health

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MAMI (The Power of Maternal Microbes on Infant Health)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-11-30

"PERIOD: 01/06/2015-30/11/2017 (30 months)

Recent reports suggest that early microbial colonization has an important role for in promoting health. This may contribute to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, allergies and inflammatory conditions. Advances in understanding host-microbe interactions imply that maternal microbiota plays a crucial role on health programming. This process begins in utero and it is modulated by mode of delivery and early diet.
Delayed microbial colonization and/or alterations in the microbiota profiles and lower microbial diversity are strong risk factors for the development of life-style diseases such as allergies, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. It is also suggested that early nutrition exerts both short- and long-term effects on human health in programming its immunological, metabolic and microbiological development. Thus, a key relationship between diet, microbiome, immune system and origins of human disease is a research priority. Further, breast milk carries a significant amount of bacteria that will constitute an important source of bacteria for the infant. The hypothesis of ""programming"" during prenatal and postnatal period needs to be substantiated, where breast feeding would have a relevant role. Therefore the main goal of this project is to unravel the role of maternal microbiota on infant health programming. Results obtained will demonstrate the interaction between infant nutrition, microbes and host response in early life and its key role in health programming, enabling new applications in the field of personalized nutrition & medicine.
The overall objective of this multidisciplinary research is to analyze early host exposition to bacteria, focusing on breast milk as the main vehicle for bioactive compound transfer to the infant and for shaping the development of the intestinal microbiota. The specific aims of this project are: (1) understanding how the maternal microbiome is influenced by host and environmental factors; (2) characterizing the microbial core and other compounds transmitted to the offspring via breastfeeding and their roles in the microbial modulation and host response; (3) understanding the interactions among breast milk bioactive compounds and their role for infant health; (4) shedding light on how maternal microbes influence the infant immune system; and (5) development of new dietary strategies and therapies based on microbial replacement and modulation. The technological advances in genotyping, expression profiling and metagenomics coupled with systems biology, anticipate high chances of success. The ambitious goals of this project will be broken down into specific tasks, involving different technical approaches and resulting in specific deliverables. This project will provide completely new integrative data on host microbial ecology and nutrition, genotype, immune system & metabolism to understand the origins of disease, focusing on the fetal period and the influence of mother.
During this period (2015-2017), we have been able conform the MAMI research team, by recruiting professionals from different backgrounds and expertise, necessary to conduct the work. We have also worked intensively in setting up the laboratory and sample management as well as standardized protocols for all techniques to be used in MAMI project (such us DNA/RNA extraction, sequencing, metabolome, etc.). Another important focus area in this first period has been the management of the biological samples in relation to the biobank and the sample processing. Protocols and SPOs were developed during this period. This activity was critical to assure the quality and traceability of samples and biological information under the present legislation. Furthermore we have established and optimized protocols and procedures for the processing and analysis of samples and data interpretation.
The main focus of MAMI so far has been the cohort recruitment (mother-infant pairs) and follow-up. We have recruited already more than 190 mother-infant pairs, which represents more than 100% of the expected minimum size of MAMI cohort (n=100), making us confident than the recruitment will be completed on time. To ensure a successful recruitment, we have conducted a large number of communication activities, training session in hospitals, healthcare centers, etc. which was important to engage volunteers and other participants (healthcare professionals, etc.). In detail, MAMI covered during 2015-2017 the following points:
• WP1. Recruitment of mother-infant pairs in collaboration with hospital and Health centers. Processing and management of samples obtained. Deposit of biological samples in biobank
• WP1. DNA extraction, purification and quantification.
• WP1. 16S sequencing and analyses.
WP1.Management of metadata (biochemical, anthropometric data and Dietary information from families)
• WP2. Mother-infant non-microbial components.

Outreach activities are meant to engage a large audience and to bring knowledge and expertise on a particular topic to the general public. MAMI’s outreach activities are focused on the objective of increasing public awareness of the role of maternal microbes on infant health as well as the relevance of breastfeeding to reduce the risk of disease later in life. Outreach activities took several forms: presentations, workshops, public talks, lab visits, breastfeeding sessions, etc. and targeted different audiences: mothers, healthcare professionals, policy makers, public in general, etc. The objective of these activities has been to explain the benefits of MAMI research to a larger public. MAMI organized different session and training workshop for physicians (gynecologist, midwife, neonatologist, pediatrician etc..) involved in the collaborative Hospitals and Health centers. In addition, MAMI organized sessions for mothers interested to join the proposal and also, we fixed workshops for wide-audience to show/inform about the role of microbes in health. MAMI developed a web-page ( ) where the project is explained and where mothers interested to join us can get the necessary information and contact us. MAMI also participated in general or/and scientific presentations at relevant meetings and by publications in national and international journals. MAMI will continue with the communication activities and training session, as well as with societal activities (workshops for mothers, scientific training for families and kids, joining general diffusion activities, seminars in hospital and also, attendance to scientific meeting).
PERIOD: 01/06/2015-30/11/2017 (30 months)

Information on host-microbe interaction will promote a deeper understanding on the risk of disease and may ultimately result in the discovery of new therapeutic targets. The project will provide new data in order to i) understand the effect of early environment factors, maternal microbes and diet, on short- &-long-term effects upon host’s health modulating microbial, immunological and metabolic programming, ii) to understand the role of microbes in nutritional, immunological & metabolic programming at certain life stages with health consequences later in life and even for subsequent generations. Work on each of these key questions provides important leads for the future.
MAMI expect that the milestones reached will reinforce the notion that nutrition in early life (breastfeeding practices) and the human milk bioactive factors might be exploited to promote microbiological, immunological and metabolic programming of child health and will inform the development of new dietary strategies, functional foods and therapies enabling new applications in the field of personalized nutrition and medicine aimed. These new preventive and therapeutic strategies will benefit the large proportion of the European population currently suffering from diseases related to microbiota dysbiosis and provide new tools to reduce the risk of such diseases in future generations. The results will have a global impact on reducing the risk of disease burden.
MAMI will have a great social impact and the knowledge created via this project will help to develop new strategies to reduce the risk of disease, to develop health policies and also to save money from public health resources. EU policies and H2020 priorities are often focused on elderly people or particular diseases, such as obesity. With this project we aim for the prevention of the development of specific diseases but also to maintain a good health throughout to arrive well to elderly ages.