For babies, the trip from the womb to the outside world is a transition from a blank, sterile slate to host for what will eventually be trillions of microscopic organisms.
Unfortunately, the demographics of a burgeoning microbial community can easily tip in favor of dangerous bacteria.
"While that microbial environment in the gut is still developing, the introduction of one of many of the wrong kinds of bacteria may cause a severe immune response," says Douglas Weibel, biochemistry professor at UW-Madison. "In an infant, the immune system could just ravage the intestines."
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