- Center for Metabolism and Immunity
Interdisciplinary Research Initiative
2/1/2012 - 1/31/2015
Phillip I. Tarr
In the past decade, the importance of interactions between microbes colonizing the human gut (the intestinal microbiome), health, and disease has been recognized. Patterns of intestinal colonization early in life influence systemic immune responses and are increasingly implicated in a variety of diseases including obesity, diabetes, asthma, and autoimmune disorders. Intestinal colonization in adults has been intensively studied by new metagenomic technology. However, data on the assembly, composition and influences on the intestinal microbiome early in life remain sparse, although studies demonstrate that major shifts in microbial colonization occur during infancy, becoming more stable after two years of age. Great progress is being made in the CDI-funded, “The St Louis Neonatal Gut Microbiome Initiative” (2009-2012), and the lead investigator, Dr. Warner, has requested two years of supplemental funding. The original aims were to optimize collection and methods to study the infant intestinal microbiome, and to test the hypothesis that gut microbial communities cluster within families and that the microbiome of identical twins will be more similar to one another than those of fraternal twins. As this project moves into the second half of its funding cycle, Aim 1 milestones have been accomplished, and Year 1 of life will soon be over for the earliest enrolled infants. Additional funds are now requested to extend follow-up and specimen accrual through the second year of life. Of note, the cost to follow this cohort for one additional year is substantially less than that required for initial screening, enrollment and hospital based visits postpartum, and will maximize return on initial investment. This extension of this initiative would be the first characterization of the intestinal microbiome through two years of life, and how it is influenced by genetics, nutrition, antibiotic use, and other events. The results will provide novel insights into early interactions that may affect energy harvest, weight and metabolism later in life, and form the basis for additional groundbreaking studies examining the role of early microbial colonization in human health and well being.