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Baby poo could hold the answer to life-long gut health

Published:  20 May 2021

Baby poo is a subject many new parents never thought they’d spend so much time discussing; however, Townsville University Hospital and James Cook University researchers believe the usually unpleasant topic could hold the key to understanding long-term health.

The research, titled the Longitudinal Faecal Microbiome study, looks to understand the bacteria that make up the microbiome of in the gut of premature babies.

Townsville Hospital and Health Service neonatologist and one of the lead investigators for this project, Dr Yoga Kandasamy, said healthy gut bacteria played a vital role in overall wellbeing.

“In full-term babies, the gut bacteria colonisation process generally evolves as it should; it’s a perfect, choreographed sequence of events that shifts which microbes are dominant and helps create a healthy immune system,” he said.

“Unfortunately, when a baby is born prematurely, they often need life-saving medicines such as antibiotics which can disrupt the normal gut bacteria colonisation process. This, in turn, puts premature babies at an increased risk of developmental abnormalities and diseases.

“Thankfully, our previous research has shown that by giving premature babies a probiotic supplement we can not only significantly reduce the incidence of disease while in hospital but improve the overall health of the infant’s microbiome when they leave hospital.”

The study is now looking to take the research to the next level and understand if probiotic supplements given in hospital have a positive, long-term impact on the development of gut bacteria in premature babies, once they’ve been discharged home.

“Currently, probiotic supplements are only given to babies who are born earlier than 32 weeks gestation or are less than 1.5kg; however, depending on the results of the study, we may find it beneficial to broaden the scope of which premature babies are given probiotics,” Dr Kandasamy said.

“We are asking parents of premature babies who have spent time in Townsville University Hospital NICU and special care nursery, and who were admitted to the unit between 1 January 2018 and 1 August 2020, to donate a sample of their child’s poo and answer a short dietary survey.”

This research project is a collaboration between Dr Kandasamy from Townsville University Hospital and Assoc. Prof Donna Rudd from James Cook University and is funded by TUH Study, Education and Research Trust Account (SERTA) research grant.

“Our ultimate goal is to have babies leave our hospital as healthy as possible and to set them up for a healthy future,” Dr Kandasamy said.

For more information on the study, or to get involved, please contact the team via email at Nicole.Dionysius@health.qld.gov.au or by phone on 0484897555.

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Get involved with this study

For more information on the study, or to get involved, please contact the team via email at Nicole.Dionysius@health.qld.gov.au or by phone on 0484897555.

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