Purpose of review
The microbiome and immune system are intrinsically linked, and during infancy these crucial biological systems undergo a concurrent and expansive maturation process. As these maturation processes progress, some children develop a sequence of IgE-mediated immune disorders termed the ‘Allergic March’, and unfortunately the prevalence of these lifelong and burdensome allergic conditions has increased over the past half century. Our current treatment strategies are unable to prevent or cure components of the Allergic March. However, recent discoveries have enhanced our mechanistic understanding of early-life microbiota–immune interactions with exciting implications for preventing these allergic disorders.
The current review will detail recent literature regarding perinatal factors (e.g. birth mode, antibiotic exposure, breastmilk seeding of the microbiota, built environment) that shape the infant gut microbiota composition. Furthermore, we will discuss new findings that have highlighted immune cells which are particularly sensitive to microbial influences in utero and during the early-life window of development.
As our understanding of the dynamic relationship between the developing infant microbiota and immune system grows, a priority toward preserving critical early-life interactions may provide life-long protection to these diseases in the future.