Purpose HELMi (Health and Early Life Microbiota) is a longitudinal, prospective general population birth cohort, set up to identify environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors that modify the intestinal microbiota development in the first years of life and their relation to child health and well-being. Participants The HELMi cohort consists of 1055 healthy term infants born in 2016-2018 mainly at the capital region of Finland and their parents. The intestinal microbiota development of the infants is characterised based on nine, strategically selected, faecal samples and connected to extensive online questionnaire-collected metadata at weekly to monthly intervals focusing on the diet, other exposures and family's lifestyle as well as the health and growth of the child. Motor and cognitive developmental screening takes place at 18 months. Infant's DNA sample, mother's breast milk sample and both parent's spot faecal samples have been collected. Findings to date The mean age of the mothers was 32.8 (SD 4.1) and fathers/coparents 34.8 (5.3) years at the time of enrolment. Seventeen percentage (n=180) of the infants were born by caesarean section. Just under half (49%) were firstborns; 50.7% were males. At 3 months of age, 86% of the babies were exclusively breastfed and 2% exclusively formula-fed. Future plans The current follow-up from pregnancy to first 24 months will be completed in March 2020, totalling to over 10 000 biological samples and over 50 000 questionnaire entries. The results are expected to identify environmental and host factors that affect early gut microbiota development and health, and hence give indications of how to prevent or reverse microbiota perturbations in infancy. This prospective cohort will be followed up further to identify how the early microbiota relates to later health outcomes, especially weight gain, infections and allergic and other chronic diseases. Trial registration number NCT03996304; Pre-results.
- birth cohort
- early life exposures
- intestinal microbiota development
- longitudinal follow-up