For almost a century, scientists believed the womb was a sterile, isolated bubble that kept the developing fetus safe from microbes that might cause them harm.

But that all began to change several years ago when researchers found evidence of bacteria in the human womb and hypothesized that the baby’s microbiome – the collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in and on the baby – actually gets going during pregnancy. This highly controversial finding just got more support from a recent series of papers. And now Kent Willis, a physician scientist who focuses on premature infants, reveals evidence of fungi living in wombs.

Also this week, we published stories about the bonkers history of beds, photo portraits of a 19th-century mother and daughter and how to donate wisely after a disaster.

New research suggests that a newborn is exposed to bacteria and fungi in the womb. stockce/Shutterstock

The womb isn’t sterile – healthy babies are born with bacteria and fungi in their guts

Kent Willis, University of Tennessee

Fungi live in everyone's gut – but now a new study reveals that this colonization may begin before birth.

For centuries, people thought nothing of crowding family members or friends into the same bed. miniwide/

The bizarre social history of beds

Brian Fagan, University of California, Santa Barbara

Today's beds are thought of as bastions of privacy. But not long ago, they were the perches from which kings ruled and places where travelers hunkered down with complete strangers.

Detroit People’s Food Co-op, opening later this year in a food desert, is an example of a community-driven project. DPFC

Why community-owned grocery stores like co-ops are the best recipe for revitalizing food deserts

Catherine Brinkley, University of California, Davis

Prodded by Michelle Obama and other government leaders, Walmart and other major US retailers vowed to build hundreds of stores in food deserts. What happened?

This week's video


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