Up until the last decade, the science community thought breast milk was sterile, and until more recently, many other parts of the woman’s body were thought to be free of microbiota (e.g. urinary tract, uterus, etc.).
At the IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas 2016, hosted by NutraIngredients-USA parent company William Reed, experts from various fields shared what they have discovered during their research into microbes in women.
The experts ranged from filmmaker and author Toni Harman, who documented the role of maternal microbes during childbirth in her award-winning documentary Microbirth; to Dr. Eduardo López-Huertas, a research scientist from the Spanish National Research Council who presented on breast milk microbiome and newborns; to a group of PhD candidates of Loyola University Chicago who are demonstrating the existence of microbiota in the female bladder, and what this discovery means.
“Probiotics for women’s health has a huge future,” said Krystal Thomas-White, a PhD candidate working with Professor Alan Wolfe, Professor in Microbiology & Immunology at Loyola University Chicago Urinary Education & Research Collaborative. "It needs to be the future."
Thomas-White says that there may be potential ways to treat conditions such as urinary tract infections without “wiping the slate clean,” which is the effect that antiobiotics have, by using probiotics, though research is still in its infancy.
More fresh research came from PhD candidate Derrick Chu of the Baylor College of medicine. He presented data on microbes beyond the vagina, and how they link to a healthy pregnancy. During his presentation, he explained how the uterus, placenta, and amniotic fluid were once thought to be sterile, but limited evidence suggests there might be microbiota.
He also explained a hypothesis that the oral cavity is the origin of microbiota for the placenta. “We’re becoming increasingly aware that microbes across the woman’s body really have profound impacts on how the pregnancy continues and develops, and the potential outcomes for the infant’s health and development long term,” Chu said.