Background: Metal exposures are associated with gut microbiome (GM) composition and function, and exposures early in development may be particularly important. Considering the role of the GM in association with many adverse health outcomes, understanding the relationship between prenatal metal exposures and the GM is critically important. However, there is sparse knowledge of the association between prenatal metal exposure and GM later in childhood. Objectives: This analysis aims to identify associations between prenatal lead (Pb) exposure and GM composition and function in children 9–11 years old. Methods: Data come from the Programming Research in Obesity, Growth, Environment and Social Stressors (PROGRESS) cohort based in Mexico City, Mexico. Prenatal metal concentrations were measured in maternal whole blood drawn during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Stool samples collected at 9–11 years old underwent metagenomic sequencing to assess the GM. This analysis uses multiple statistical modeling approaches, including linear regression, permutational analysis of variance, weighted quantile sum regression (WQS), and individual taxa regressions, to estimate the association between maternal blood Pb during pregnancy and multiple aspects of the child GM at 9–11 years old, adjusting for relevant confounders. Results: Of the 123 child participants in this pilot data analysis, 74 were male and 49 were female. Mean prenatal maternal blood Pb was 33.6 (SE = 2.1) ug/L and 34.9 (SE = 2.1) ug/L at second and third trimesters, respectively. Analysis suggests a consistent negative relationship between prenatal maternal blood Pb and the GM at age 9–11, including measures of alpha and beta diversity, microbiome mixture analysis, and individual taxa. The WQS analysis showed a negative association between prenatal Pb exposure and the gut microbiome, for both second and third trimester exposures (2Tβ = −0.17, 95%CI = [−0.46,0.11]; 3Tβ = −0.17, 95%CI = [−0.44,0.10]). Ruminococcus gnavus, Bifidobacterium longum, Alistipes indistinctus, Bacteroides caccae, and Bifidobacterium bifidum all had weights above the importance threshold from 80% or more of the WQS repeated holdouts in association with both second and third trimester Pb exposure. Discussion: Pilot data analysis suggests a negative association between prenatal Pb exposure and the gut microbiome later in childhood; however, additional investigation is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1193919
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - 2023


  • environmental epidemiology
  • human microbiome
  • maternal child health
  • metal exposure
  • weighted quantile sum regression


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