Exposure to heavy metals in utero, such as arsenic, may have negative effects on health and neurodevelopment of offspring. In North Carolina, arsenic has been found in the drinking water, making this an important public health concern. This study will be the first to examine the way in which arsenic exposure may alter the microbiome of pregnant women and their offspring. Preclinical studies and an emerging literature in humans suggest that individual differences in microbiome diversity may predict subsequent neurodevelopmental problems including impaired attention and emotion regulation, and ultimately psychopathology or cognitive deficits in early childhood. Co-PIs Cathi Propper and Rebecca Fry will examine links between urinary arsenic, infant gut microbiota at 2 weeks, and infant attention and emotion regulation at 6 months of age. This study builds on a strong collaborative interdisciplinary team and this research will contribute to our understanding of how the exposome and microbiome interact to affect individual susceptibility to future health outcomes.
Cathi Propper is the Director of FPG's Developmental Biobehavioral Core and an advanced research scientist at FPG. Dr. Fry is Director of the Institute for Environmental Health Solutions and The Carol Remmer Angle Distinguished Professor in Children's Environmental Health in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill.