Summary of Baby’s First Bacteria

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Microbes in the womb used to be considered evidence of a dangerous infection. Now, some scientists believe that microbes in the womb may be a normal, and even beneficial, part of fetal development. Other researchers condemn these findings as “sloppy science.” Science journalist Cassandra Willyard takes readers through the ins and outs of this controversy in a clear and engaging manner. getAbstract recommends this article to anyone seeking a new perspective on the importance of the microscopic world.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How some researchers believe that babies may be exposed to bacteria while they are still in the womb,
  • Why other researchers still believe the womb is a sterile environment and 
  • Why research on the fetal microbiome is important.

About the Author

Cassandra Willyard is a science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, and Scientific American. She has an MA in Science Writing from Johns Hopkins University.



For decades, doctors believed that the placenta prevented microbes from entering the womb.

Several different researchers, including microbiologist Indira Mysorekar, have found bacterial DNA in the placenta and the meconium (the baby’s first stool, which is composed of material ingested while the baby was in the womb). Furthermore, many animals that have been investigated show evidence of microbial exposure in the womb. For example, animals like tsetse flies and turtles develop a microbiome prior to birth that is similar to the mother’s microbiome. Microbiologist Juan Miguel Rodrígeuz even administered...

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