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February 03, 2016

Why CHOP wants to study your baby's poo

Bacteria in the gut could be key to preventing future obesity

Don't throw your baby's dirty diapers in the trash: They could be used for science!

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and its parent university, Penn, are starting the second phase of a study devoted entirely to baby poop.

Why do scientists care so much about poo? It could show which children are at a high risk for obesity early in life. Feces contains a wealth of information on a baby's microbiome, the collection of bacteria and microorganisms that affect how humans digest food and gain weight.

By studying how different diets affect the microbiome, scientists will be able to learn more about what causes excessive weight gain in babies. Eventually, scientists may be able to prevent obesity by flagging warning signs in early infancy.

“We are enrolling moms during their third trimester and trying to characterize their vaginal and gut microbiota, look at the transmission to infants, and follow the changes of the microbiota of infants through the first year of life to see if it correlates with weight gain,” principal investigator Babette Zemel said on the CHOP research blog.

The first phase of the study is ongoing as investigators are still enrolling moms, but the second phase, where researchers start analyzing the samples in a lab, is already starting. See here for more information on enrolling. 

Related story: CHOP announces new partnership to help children in the Middle East

The study is enrolling only African-American mothers. Nineteen percent of black children between the ages of 2 and 5 are obese, according to the study description.

Thanks to a $727,000 grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the researchers will be able to follow the physical development of around 300 babies until the age of 2.

We await their results with bated breath (and noses plugged).

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