News and Views

APC Microbiome to lead probiotic research for mothers and babies

26 Oct 2018
(l-r): Dr Sally Cudmore, APC Microbiome Ireland, UCC; Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD; and Dr Paul Cotter, Teagasc and APC Microbiome Ireland.

Microbe Mom, a new collaboration between academia and industry set to generate health solutions for mothers and infants in Ireland, has been launched. 

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, launched the therapeutic research collaboration, which he said will "further solidify Cork’s reputation as a hub of excellent research.”

"Optimising diet and the nature of food and supplements for pregnant women and babies is crucial to ensuring their health and wellbeing throughout their lives.  In addition to helping us achieve this, Microbe Mom will also further solidify Cork’s reputation as a hub of excellent research.”

The research investment of €3.4 million was funded by Science Foundation Ireland, through the SFI Spokes programme and Alimentary Health Group led by APC Microbiome Ireland. 

Microbe Mom investigates:

  • the most likely methods of transfer of bifidobacteria strains from mother to baby,
  • the impact of the mother’s diet and health on her gut bacteria and what bacteria she transfers to her baby at birth,
  • the impact of specific probiotic supplements on the mother’s health.

Microbe Mom is a four-way collaboration between:

  • Alimentary Health Group, an innovative Irish healthcare company pioneering the discovery and development of proprietary microbiome-based products,
  • the SFI Research Centre APC Microbiome Ireland in Teagasc and University College Cork,
  • the UCD Perinatal Research Centre, School of Medicine, University College Dublin, and
  • National Institute of Biotechnology Research and Training (NIBRT).

Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, TD, welcomed the investment, which "will focus on improving the health of mothers and babies by looking at the diet of mothers and the transfer of bacteria at birth."

“This project will build on the long-standing partnership between the company and the SFI Research Centre ‘APC Microbiome Ireland’ in UCC, which in and of itself is a demonstration of the great heights that Irish science can achieve," he added. 

Bifidobacteria have received significant attention due to their proven contribution to human gut health and the use of specific strains as probiotics, according to Microbe Mom project leader Dr Paul Cotter, Head of Department Food Biosciences in Teagasc and Principal Investigator at APC Microbiome Ireland. 

"Advances in DNA sequencing technology allow us to develop scientifically proven and clinically supported probiotic bifidobacteria, and investigate their transfer from mom to baby."

Dr Eileen Murphy, Technical Director, Alimentary Health Group said: “This knowledge will help us develop a range of probiotics with the precise qualities we need to optimise maternal and baby health."

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “SFI is delighted to support this new research programme, which brings together excellent researchers, clinicians and Irish SME Alimentary Health Group, to drive discovery in the transfer of bacteria from women to their babies. This project demonstrates the important scientific advances and potential for new products that are being led by SFI Research Centres working with their partners in both academia and industry.”

This collaboration is further evidence of the wisdom of national research centres, and APC Microbiome Ireland is delighted to be blending the expertise of the APC scientists with working with clinician-scientists at the National Maternity Hospital and bioprocessing experts at NIBRT," said Fergus Shanahan, Director of APC Microbiome Ireland.

“Pregnancy and early life present a unique time in the life course, where mother and baby health can be significantly improved," commented Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at University College Dublin & National Maternity Hospital, and Director of UCD Perinatal Research Centre.

This innovative research programme holds considerable potential to improve mother’s health in pregnancy, in terms of sugars and blood lipids and to enhance baby’s health in the long-term by ensuring a healthy gut microbiome, she said. 

"The Microbe Mom research will contribute to our overall aim of enabling women to have the healthiest pregnancies and the healthiest babies they can.” 


For more on this story contact:

Catherine Buckley. Communications and Outreach Manager, APC Microbiome Ireland: 086 8554744.


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