HI network member Erika Claud recently spoke with HCEO about her research on intestinal development in preterm infants.

"I'm particularly interested in child health, specifically preterm infants as a very vulnerable population," Claud says. 

She notes that preterm infants are essentially infants who have not yet completed their development. "So I have tried to ask questions that are developmentally based, not what diseases do they get, but why are they more susceptible to diseases? And that led me to studying the microbiome."

Recently, Claud has been studying how the microbiome impacts development, and what the role of the microbiome is related to the growth of preterm infants. She is also researching the role that the socioeconomic status of the infant plays in their development.

"The biggest determinant of the neurodevelopmental outcome of preterm infants isn’t actually their hospital course, or how immature they were, it’s the socioeconomic status of the home they go to," she says. 

The environmental factors of a child's home influence their microbiome, which in turns affects brain development, Claud notes. 

"I can’t fix poverty," she says. "But if I can understand the role of the microbiome that's affected by an infant's environment and understand how that impacts their brain development, then maybe I can mitigate some of those factors."

Claud is a Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine, Sections of Neonatology and Gastroenterology at The University of Chicago.