OBJECTIVE: Findings from animal studies indicate that the early gut bacteriome is a potential mechanism linking maternal prenatal stress with health trajectories in offspring. However, clinical studies are scarce and the associations of maternal psychological profiles with the early infant faecal bacteriome is unknown. This study aimed to investigate the associations of prenatal stressors and distress with early infant faecal bacterial profiles in a South African birth cohort study.
METHODS: Associations between prenatal symptoms of depression, distress, intimate partner violence (IPV) and posttraumatic stress-disorder (PTSD) and faecal bacterial profiles were evaluated in meconium and subsequent stool specimens from 84 mothers and 101 infants at birth, and longitudinally from a subset of 69 and 36 infants at 4-12 and 20-28 weeks of age, respectively in a South African birth cohort study.
RESULTS: Infants born to mothers that were exposed to high levels of IPV had significantly higher proportions of Citrobacter and three unclassified genera, all of which belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae detected at birth. Proportions of these Enterobacteriaceae remained significantly increased over time (birth to 20-28 weeks of life) in infants born to mothers with high levels of IPV exposure compared to infants from mothers with no/low IPV exposure. Infants born to mothers exposed to IPV also had higher proportions of the genus Weissella at 4-12 weeks compared to infants from mothers with no/low IPV exposure. Faecal specimens from mothers exposed to IPV had higher proportions of the family Lactobacillaceae and lower proportions of Peptostreptococcaceae at birth. Maternal psychological distress was associated with decreased proportions of the family Veillonellaceae in infants at 20-28 weeks and a slower decline in Gammaproteobacteria over time. No changes in beta diversity were apparent for maternal or infant faecal bacterial profiles in relation to any of the prenatal measures for psychological adversities.
CONCLUSION: IPV during pregnancy is associated with altered bacterial profiles in infant and maternal faecal bacteria. These findings may provide insights in the involvement of the gut bacteria linking maternal psychological adversity and the maturing infant brain.