There is substantial epidemiological and mechanistic evidence that the increase in allergic disease and asthma in many parts of the world in part relates to changes in microbial exposures and diet acting via the composition and metabolic products of the intestinal microbiome. The majority of research in this field has focused on the gut microbiome during infancy, but it is increasingly clear that the maternal microbiome during pregnancy also has a key role in preventing an allergy-prone immune phenotype in the offspring. The mechanisms by which the maternal microbiome influences the developing fetal immune system include alignment between the maternal and infant regulatory immune status and transplacental passage of microbial metabolites and IgG. Interplay between microbial stimulatory factors such as lipopolysaccharides and regulatory factors such as short-chain fatty acids may also influence on fetal immune development. However, our understanding of these pathways is at an early stage and further mechanistic studies are needed. There are also no data from human studies relating the composition and metabolic activity of the maternal microbiome during pregnancy to the offspring's immune status at birth and risk of allergic disease. Improved knowledge of these pathways may inform novel strategies for tackling the increase in allergic disorders in the modern world.
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- Immune programming
- In utero