Development and Succession of Microflora during Life Time

The human fetus is sterile and the maternal vaginal microflora comprises the first inoculum of microbes. The indigenous intestinal microflora develops over time, determined by an interplay between genetic factors, mode of delivery, contact with the initial surrounding environment, diet, and disease. As a result, every individual has a unique characteristic microflora. The human intestinal microbiota does not exist as a defined entity; this population comprises a dynamic mixture of microbes in each individual.

The establishment of the gut microflora, a process commencing immediately upon birth, provides an early and massive source of microbial stimuli, and may consequently be a good candidate 'infection.' This step-wise succession begins with facultative anaerobes such as the enterobacteria, coliforms, and lactobacilli first colonizing the intestine, rapidly succeeded by bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria. The indigenous gut microflora plays an important role in the generation of an immunophysiological regulation of the gut, providing key signals for the development of the immune system in infancy and also interfering with and actively controlling the gut-associated immunological homeostasis later in life. A healthy microflora can thus be defined as the normal individual microflora of a child that both preserves and promotes well-being and absence of disease, especially in the GI tract, but also beyond it. It provides the first step in long-term well-being for later life and the basis for this development lies in early infancy. Failure in the establishment of a healthy microflora has been linked to the risk of infectious, inflammatory, and allergic diseases later in life. Demonstration of this has stimulated researchers to elucidate the composition and function of the intestinal microflora.

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