Lead (Pb) is a persistent environmental contaminant that is toxic to humans, primarily in the developmental stages of life. It is believed that environment and nutrition play a role in determining health. Most recently, it has been recognized by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that the interaction between pathogens and toxic agents may contribute to disease development in humans. In fact, epidemiological studies suggest that there may be a correlation between lead exposure and obesity in children and that this effect may be long-lasting, resulting in adulthood obesity.
Perinatal lead exposure in mice
The microbiome has recently been recognized as contributing to health and disruptions in gut microbiota constitution as been associated with chronic illnesses. To investigate the phenomena of Pb-induced obesity, mice were exposed to lead during the perinatal period. Researchers studied how lead exposure around the time of birth impacted gut microbiota, and then watched to observe whether changes to the microbiome influenced bodyweight.
They found that exposure to lead early in development did alter the bacterial composition of the digestive tract. Pb affected the resilience and diversity of bacteria normally present in the gut; disrupting the balance between aerobic and anaerobic bacterium. Continue reading