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Microbiome. 2014 Jul 11;2:24. doi: 10.1186/2049-2618-2-24. eCollection 2014.

Effect of chemotherapy on the microbiota and metabolome of human milk, a case report.

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Lawson Health Research Institute, 268 Grosvenor Street, London, ON N6A 4V2, Canada ; Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Western University, London, ON N6A 5C1, Canada.
Perinatal and Women's Health, London Health Sciences Centre, London, ON N6A 4L6, Canada.
Department of Biochemistry, Western University, London, ON N6A 5C1, Canada.
Department of Chemistry, Western University, London, ON N6A 5C1, Canada ; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, London, ON N5V 4T3, Canada.



Human milk is an important source of bacteria for the developing infant and has been shown to influence the bacterial composition of the neonatal gut, which in turn can affect disease risk later in life. Human milk is also an important source of nutrients, influencing bacterial composition but also directly affecting the host. While recent studies have emphasized the adverse effects of antibiotic therapy on the infant microbiota, the effects of maternal chemotherapy have not been previously studied. Here we report the effects of drug administration on the microbiota and metabolome of human milk.


Mature milk was collected every two weeks over a four month period from a lactating woman undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Mature milk was also collected from healthy lactating women for comparison. Microbial profiles were analyzed by 16S sequencing and the metabolome by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.


Chemotherapy caused a significant deviation from a healthy microbial and metabolomic profile, with depletion of genera Bifidobacterium, Eubacterium, Staphylococcus and Cloacibacterium in favor of Acinetobacter, Xanthomonadaceae and Stenotrophomonas. The metabolites docosahexaenoic acid and inositol known for their beneficial effects were also decreased.


With milk contents being critical for shaping infant immunity and development, consideration needs to be given to the impact of drugs administered to the mother and the long-term potential consequences for the health of the infant.


16S rRNA gene sequencing; Human milk microbiome; Metabolome

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