Your mother’s microbes protect you
24 June 2019

Maternal microbiota is crucial for the future health of a child. The transmission of microbes to offspring is a process that begins in the uterus and is influenced by the delivery method, breastfeeding and the mother’s diet. However, the mechanisms behind the protective role of maternal microbes on the baby’s health are not yet fully understood.

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The mother’s microbial environment during pregnancy and delivery may remarkably impact a new-born’s immune development with short- and long-term consequences on children’s health. Recent research shows that early microbial colonization - from the mother to the child - may contribute to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, allergies and inflammatory conditions. Hence, the first days and months of life are extremely important and many factors are at play. For example, the type of delivery affects the composition of maternal milk and the mother’s diet has an influence on the bacteria transmitted to the child.

Prof. Maria Carmen Collado studies early exposition to bacteria, focusing on breastfeeding. Breast milk carries a significant amount of bacteria that constitute an important source for the baby’s intestinal microbiota. More specifically, she looks at the milk microorganisms transferred during breastfeeding and their effect on the child’s well-being. “We are seeing the great importance of bacteria in mother’s food. What the mother eats seems to be key for the transfer of microbiota to the child and the development of an adequate immune system” she says.

These results open up new possibilities for research and applications in the field of personalized nutrition and medicine. “Pregnancy and early infancy are, to our current understanding, the most interesting critical stages and targets for dietary interventions aiming to reduce disease risk. This project could contribute to new dietary strategies, design of functional food, and further development of nutritional guidelines and recommendations” concludes Prof. Collado. Researcher


Maria Carmen Collado holds a Research Scientist position at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA-CSIC) in Valencia (Spain). Her research work is multidisciplinary and includes microbiology, food science, nutrition and human health. Her interests are focused on probiotics, microbiota and health and nutrition during pregnancy and early life period.

Project information

The Power of Maternal Microbes on Infant Health
Maria Carmen Collado
Host institution:
Spanish National Research Council – CSIC
Call details
ERC-2014-STG, LS9
ERC Funding
1 499 979 €