The human gut is essentially sterile at birth, with waves of colonization by microbes occurring over the course of childhood and into adulthood. These microbes are important for nutritional status and for the development of the intestinal immune system. How the pattern of microbial colonization during childhood interacts with these important functions, and the long-term implications on childhood health, are not understood. The aims of this proposal are to:
1. Examine the impact of patterns of gut microbial colonization and maturation on childhood growth and intestinal immune responses. The St. Louis cohort with be part of a global cohort to model age-appropriate microbial intestinal maturation. These critically needed models will be used to address the global issue of childhood malnutrition and growth failure and will standardize global observations of malnourished children, offering the potential for interventions and monitoring responses to treatments. This unprecedented cohort can be used for multiple interdisciplinary research studies on not only malnutrition, but also the roles of intestinal viruses, antibiotic resistance, Clostridium difficile—a bacterium that causes inflammation of the colon—and probiotics in childhood development.
2. Maintain this longitudinal cohort to advance knowledge regarding the impact of the intestinal microbiome on pediatric health and disease.
This study will develop an important set of standards and be used to understand the links between maturational patterns of intestinal colonization and healthy growth and development in childhood.
Phillip Tarr, M.D.