VANCOUVER -- A new University of British Columbia study says a baby’s first poop could help predict their risk of developing allergies in the first year of life.

UBC researchers have found evidence that the composition of a baby’s first poop – a thick, dark green substance known as meconium – is associated with whether or not the child will develop allergies in their first 12 months.

The research, published on Thursday in Cell Reports Medicine, shows babies with less rich meconium developed allergic sensitization by one year of age.

Meconium, which is typically passed within the first day of life, is made up of a variety of materials ingested and excreted during development, including skin cells, amniotic fluid and molecules.

The study's lead author, Dr. Charisse Petersen, a research associate in UBC's department of pediatrics, said meconium is "like a time capsule, revealing what the infant was exposed to before it was born."

“It contains all sorts of molecules encountered and accumulated from the mother while in the womb, and it then becomes the initial food source for the earliest gut microbes,” Petersen said in a news release.

The study looked at meconium samples from 100 infants enrolled in a world-leading cohort study in maternal, newborn and child research. It discovered the fewer different kinds of molecules a baby’s meconium contained, the greater the child’s risk of developing allergiess by one year. They also found a reduction in certain molecules was associated with bacteria groups that impact health and disease.

“This work shows that the development of a healthy immune system and microbiota may actually start well before a child is born—and signals that the tiny molecules an infant is exposed to in the womb play a fundamental role in future health,” says Petersen.

The study findings have important implications for at-risk infants, say the researchers.

“We know that children with allergies are at the highest risk of also developing asthma. Now we have an opportunity to identify at-risk infants who could benefit from early interventions,” says the study’s senior co-author Dr. Stuart Turvey, a professor in UBC’s department of pediatrics.