We are researching to find answers to the following questions:

  1. How does pregnancy affect the mother’s microbiome and does it correlate with the known changes in the immune status during pregnancy?
  2. In locations where disease burden is high, do prophylactic regimens (e.g. anti-retroviral drugs for HIV+ women, sulfadoxine pyrimethane for malaria endemic countries) affect the mother’s microbiome and subsequent immune status?
  3. Do prophylatic regimens given to the pregnant mother affect the health – specifically the immune and vaccine response, as well as disease susceptibility – and microbiome of their children?
  4. Can we elicit beneficial changes to both mother and child (e.g. better vaccine response) through the use of probiotics?

Pregnant woman

Investigating mechanisms behind increased disease susceptibility in HIV-exposed-uninfected infants

The maternal vaginal microbiome directs the pioneer colonizers of her offspring’s gut microbiome, and with that sets the stage for the infant’s immune development and risk for infectious disease. HIV infection profoundly alters the vaginal microbiome, and so the vaginal microbiome of HIV infected women likely has profound impact on the development of the infants’ microbial colonization pattern. The different microbial exposure of HIV-exposed-uninfected (HEU) infants compared to uninfected (UE) infants may lead to increased risk for dysbiosis, possible even enteropathy.

We would like to ask the following questions:

  •  What is the normal ontogeny of the microbiome in South African infants? Is there a difference in ontogeny between HEU and UE?
  • Are pioneer microbial colonizers between HEU and UE infants different? If so, do they correlate with differences in maternal microbiomes?