Social and psychological adversity are associated with distinct mother and infant gut microbiome variations

Barbara B. Warner, Bruce A. Rosa, I. Malick Ndao, Phillip I. Tarr, J. Philip Miller, Sarah K. England, Joan L. Luby, Cynthia E. Rogers, Carla Hall-Moore, Renay E. Bryant, Jacqueline D. Wang, Laura A. Linneman, Tara A. Smyser, Christopher D. Smyser, Deanna M. Barch, Gregory E. Miller, Edith Chen, John Martin, Makedonka Mitreva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Health disparities are driven by underlying social disadvantage and psychosocial stressors. However, how social disadvantage and psychosocial stressors lead to adverse health outcomes is unclear, particularly when exposure begins prenatally. Variations in the gut microbiome and circulating proinflammatory cytokines offer potential mechanistic pathways. Here, we interrogate the gut microbiome of mother-child dyads to compare high-versus-low prenatal social disadvantage, psychosocial stressors and maternal circulating cytokine cohorts (prospective case-control study design using gut microbiomes from 121 dyads profiled with 16 S rRNA sequencing and 89 dyads with shotgun metagenomic sequencing). Gut microbiome characteristics significantly predictive of social disadvantage and psychosocial stressors in the mothers and children indicate that different discriminatory taxa and related pathways are involved, including many species of Bifidobacterium and related pathways across several comparisons. The lowest inter-individual gut microbiome similarity was observed among high-social disadvantage/high-psychosocial stressors mothers, suggesting distinct environmental exposures driving a diverging gut microbiome assembly compared to low-social disadvantage/low-psychosocial stressors controls (P = 3.5 × 10−5 for social disadvantage, P = 2.7 × 10−15 for psychosocial stressors). Children’s gut metagenome profiles at 4 months also significantly predicted high/low maternal prenatal IL-6 (P = 0.029), with many bacterial species overlapping those identified by social disadvantage and psychosocial stressors. These differences, based on maternal social and psychological status during a critical developmental window early in life, offer potentially modifiable targets to mitigate health inequities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5824
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


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