Improving pregnancy and lactation through microbiota modulation: Biosearch Life launches €2.3 million project

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14 Mar 2019 --- Spanish biotech company Biosearch Life has launched a €2.3 million initiative, coined the Gesta Health R&D project: Towards healthier gestation and lactation through modulation of the microbiota in women. The three-year project will target novel solutions to prevent and treat health problems during the preconception stage, pregnancy and lactation. This is through the study of women’s microbiota and the use of probiotic strategies to avoid imbalances in the microbiome and reduce the use of antibiotics. 

“The modulation of microbiota will be approached through different probiotic strategies using new strains from our collection of microorganisms isolated from breast milk. These strains could be incorporated into different food matrices and/or food supplements,” Monica Olivares, Research Director, Biosearch Life, tells NutritionInsight.

An imbalanced gut may have repercussions on both the mother and baby’s health, especially during gestation and lactation. Biosearch Life has previously studied the role of microbiota in breast milk and this new initiative looks to further expand its knowledge of the different microbiota associated with women.

The project will spawn several clinical studies to better understand the interaction between bacterial populations, as well as their interaction with the human organism. 

Click to Enlarge“It is important to highlight that some of the studies that will be dealt with in the project are aimed at finding natural and effective treatments based on probiotics, which would help reduce the use of antibiotics during such sensitive periods as pregnancy and lactation,” the company says. 

A case against antibiotics
The World Health Organisation (WHO), among others, has highlighted the importance of reducing antibiotic consumption to prevent the development of multi-resistance in pathogens. The generation of multi-resistant pathogens is considered a threat to global health as this may render therapeutic treatments that were initially effective against certain diseases, unsuccessful.

“The use of antibiotics has a direct impact on the mother’s microbiota, not only at the gut but at all levels, such as the vaginal flora or the mammary gland. These alterations in the microbiota of the woman increase the risk of suffering certain pathologies such as mastitis or candidiasis,” Olivares says.

Biosearch Life also mentions that antibiotic treatments in mothers can cause imbalances in the microbiota of their babies, which can negatively affect the colonization process of the child. 

A healthy microbiome is important for a baby’s development and may impact health throughout life. The mother’s microbiota greatly influences the baby’s since it acts as an active source of bacteria for the baby. 

“Taking into account that the formation of the baby’s microbiota is key in its development and maturation, it is very important that the mother transfers a healthy and balanced microbiota to the baby,” Olivares notes.

“The Gesta Health project will deal with the relationship between the mother’s microbiota and the child’s colonization process in order to study the factors involved and to design intervention strategies in the mother to ensure the baby’s correct colonization,” Biosearch Life notes.

The project is supported by the Spanish Centre for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI) via a partially reimbursable grant and co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Spanish Multi-regional Operational Programme. 

The research groups to conduct the studies are the Complutense University of Madrid, the University of Granada and Barcelona, as well as several health services and hospitals.

“The project will address different health problems that especially affect women during the gestation and breastfeeding period, but we also have a vision towards the future health of the baby in different aspects,” Olivares says speaking about the company’s plans. “Every day we know more about how the microbiota affects the susceptibility to infections, allergies and obesity. The gut-brain axis is another very interesting aspect. It is said that the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life will define their health.”

Biosearch Life’s previous initiative the Carmenta project, New strategies for technological innovation aimed at the health and well-being of children and women, sought to develop novel food products from natural ingredients. The project’s aim was to help prevent and relieve certain symptoms related to different stages and hormonal processes in a woman’s life, as well as prevent possible problems in children’s health during their first few months.

By Kristiana Lalou

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