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J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 2011 Apr-Jun;25(2):158-62; quiz 163-4. doi: 10.1097/JPN.0b013e3182169346.

Microbiome aspects of perinatal and neonatal health.

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Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


Our human cells are outnumbered 10 to 1 by bacterial cells. For this reason, the role of microorganisms, specifically bacteria, in health and disease has brought forth intense research via the Human Microbiome Project. The Human Microbiome Project is a National Institutes of Health sponsored effort to build upon the Human Genome Project in understanding human genetic and physiologic diversity. Perinatal and neonatal health represents areas of high importance for knowledge generated by the Human Microbiome Project as the microbiome is largely influenced during pregnancy, birth, and the neonatal period by nutrition, lifestyle, environmental factors of care, and the administration of medications, specifically antibiotics. As nurses have a depth of expertise in these areas, they will make a significant contribution toward better understanding the role of the microbiome in disease, and how to manipulate the microbiome to advantage patients toward health. This article describes the human microbiome and why it is important to overall health and disease. Three major unsolved problems in perinatal and neonatal health including (1) preterm birth; (2) the neonatal consequences of vaginal versus cesarean birth; and (3) neonatal gastrointestinal disease, specifically, necrotizing enterocolitis, are discussed in the context of current and future research on the human microbiome.

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