DNA sequencing, analysis conducted by EnGenCore for study of newborns
The Environmental Genomics Core Facility at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health conducted the DNA sequencing and analysis of bacteria for a study that is making international headlines on whether C-section babies are at greater risk for disease.
The study looked at the bacterial diversity of babies who were delivered vaginally and those who were delivered by Cesarean section. Babies who were delivered through the birth canal had bacterial communities that resembled their mothers’ bacteria. C-section babies, however, had common bacteria found on the skin of most people.
The results of the study, led by Dr. Maria Dominguez-Bella at the University of Puerto Rico, were published in the June 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Dr. Joe Jones, director of the EnGenCore Facility, said the study is significant because it builds on research aimed at helping scientists understand the complex microbial world of humans and the impact of those microbes on human health.
“How you enter this world may have an impact on how you are able to battle bacteria. In this study, C-section babies had a less-than-ideal amount of bacteria, potentially putting them at risk for disease,” Jones said. “They may not have some of the beneficial bacteria from their mothers’ bodies.”
The PNAS study included nine women from 21 to 33 years old and 10 newborns and was undertaken at the Puerto Ayacucho Hospital in Amazonas State, Venezuela. The babies were sampled within 24 hours of birth by swabbing their mouths and skin and by taking samples from their upper throats and gastrointestinal tracts.
The research team then used a powerful gene sequencing technique at EnGenCore to simultaneously analyze all of the bacteria.
The effort involved isolating and amplifying tiny bits of microbial DNA, then sequencing the DNA strands with a high-powered sequencing machine that allowed the team to pool hundreds of samples together in single sequencing runs to identify different families and genera of bacteria, said Dr. Rob Knight of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Colorado.
“While the cost of gene sequencing is dropping rapidly, new techniques are allowing us to speed up the process at the same time,” said Knight.
The EnGenCore Facility at the Arnold School works with scientists around the world on studies requiring genome sequencing. EnGenCore has provided analysis for researchers studying coffee beans in South America, handwashing habits among Americans, coral reefs, breast and colon cancers, and an ancient fungus that kills frogs. Jones and his research team have collaborated with many of the nation’s leading research institutions, including Harvard, Yale, MIT and others.
“Our facility has the capability to analyze data that scientists need for completing their research, and we are able to work with scientists wherever they are located,” Jones said.
In addition to Dominguez-Bella, scientists participating in the study were from the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research, the Amazonic Center for Research and Control of Tropical Diseases, and the University of Colorado.
To learn more about the Engencore, visit http://sph.sc.edu/engencore.