We each have trillions of bacteria living in our gut and this microbiome plays important roles in digestion and fighting disease. Their origins have long been debated, but two large-scale studies in 2019 offered some answers.
In one, researchers retrieved more than 500 placentas from women shortly after giving birth, and found the healthy placentas were sterile. Another study reported that babies delivered by caesarean lack certain strains of beneficial bacteria. Taken together, the research indicates we pick up our microbiome during and shortly after birth.
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Dr Claire Asher is a science journalist and has a PhD in Genetics, Ecology, and Evolution (GEE) at the University of Leeds. She also works part time as Manager of the UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Network, based at Imperial College London. Asher is also the author of Brave Green World: How Science Can Save Our Planet.