Baby’s first poo holds clues to future allergies

Want to protect against nappy rash?

Wondering whether bub will have allergies? Their very first nappy just may hold the answers. Researchers have discovered that baby’s first poo – that sticky, tar-like substance called meconium – reveals a whole lot about a baby’s future health.

In the name of science, a team of University of British Columbia researchers took a deep dive into newborn poo. And they found the type of molecules in baby’s first poo holds clues to future allergies.

What is Meconium?

Meconium is usually passed by a newborn within the first 24 hours. It’s interesting stuff – made up of everything bub has ingested and excreted while they’ve been growing. Things like skin cells, amniotic fluid and molecules called metabolites.

The new study revealed that the make up of this first poo is linked to whether bub will eventually have allergies. “Meconium is like a time capsule, revealing what the infant was exposed to before it was born. It contains all sorts of molecules encountered and accumulated from the mother while in the womb, and it then becomes the initial food source for the earliest gut microbes,” said study lead author Dr. Charisse Petersen.

“Our analysis revealed that newborns who developed allergic sensitisation by one year of age had significantly less ‘rich’ meconium at birth, compared to those who didn’t develop allergic sensitisation,” explained study senior co-author Dr. Brett Finlay.

Researchers analysed the first poo of 100 babies, finding that the fewer different types of molecules in a baby’s meconium, the greater their risk of developing allergies by the time they turned one. They also discovered that a reduced amount of other molecules is linked with changes to key bacterial groups. These groups are critical in the development of gut microbes that are vital in health and disease.

Helping at-risk babies

It means the development of a healthy immune system may start even before a baby is born. “(It) signals that the tiny molecules an infant is exposed to in the womb play a fundamental role in future health,” said Dr. Petersen.

For at-risk babies, it’s a chance to tackle allergies head-on. “We know that children with allergies are at the highest risk of also developing asthma,” explained study senior co-author Dr. Stuart Turvey. “Now we have an opportunity to identify at-risk infants who could benefit from early interventions before they even begin to show signs and symptoms of allergies or asthma later in life.”

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