The Minerva Foundation’s Medix Prize, worth €20,000, has been awarded to research groups headed by Professor Willem M. de Vos and Professor Sture Andersson at the University of Helsinki.
The research groups demonstrated that intestinal microbiome of infants born by means of caesarean section can be restored using maternal faecal microbiota transplantation. This may support the normal development of the immune system of the infant.
The research was published in the prestigious journal Cell.
"Birth by C-section is associated with an increased risk of many immune-related diseases, suggesting that the lack of maternal microbes in early life may have long-term consequences on the health of the child. This proof-of-concept study demonstrates that the intestinal microbiota of infants born by C-section can be postnatally restored by maternal FMT and provides further support for the natural transfer of gut microbiota from mother to infant," explained Willem M. de Vos at the press release of University of Helsinki.
The gut bacteria of the infants were monitored for three months. Their gut microbiota was compared to that of infants born by means of caesarean section but with no faecal microbiota transplantation as well as to that of infants born by vaginal delivery. The gut microbiota of infants with faecal transplants was rapidly restored to show significant similarity to that of infants born vaginally.
The research groups will continue their research in FMT
According to Professor Sture Andersson, the Maternal Faecal Microbiota Transplantation method (FMT) may become a standard clinical procedure at some point, but several years of research will still be needed.
“Faecal transplantation sounds simple but it is not. We are talking about a couple of milligrams of maternal stool, which is not easy to measure. In addition, mothers must undergo extensive screening in order to ensure their good health and hence suitability for the method, because there is a risk of transmitting a serious illness from the mother to the infant. Therefore, screening must be thorough, and the method must be supported by a laboratory,” says Professor Andersson at the press release of Minerva Foundation.
The research groups will continue their research in FMT. The follow-up of the seven infants participating in the research will be extended. In addition, there is a new, more extensive blinded study with the goal of obtaining 60 participants. In this study, the CS-born infants will be administered either a maternal faecal transplant or a placebo. The gut microbiota and the development of the immune system of the infants will be followed up until the age of two.
The Medix Prize is awarded by the University of Helsinki, and is donated to the university by the Minerva Foundation, which funds the Minerva Foundation Institute for Medical Research at Biomedicum Helsinki. The prize is awarded annually for excellent Finnish scientific research published as one article during the previous year. The research is to be in the fields of biomedicine or clinical medicine and performed fully or in its essential parts in Finland. The awardee is selected by a committee consisting of representatives from the universities of Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Eastern Finland and Oulu, who are appointed for three years.