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Gut Microbes. 2014 May-Jun;5(3):304-12. doi: 10.4161/gmic.28849.

The development of gut microbiota in critically ill extremely low birth weight infants assessed with 16S rRNA gene based sequencing.

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Institute of Microbiology; University of Tartu; Tartu, Estonia; Centre for Biology of Integrated Systems; Tallinn University of Technology; Tallinn, Estonia; Competence Centre on Reproductive Medicine and Biology; Tartu, Estonia.
Institute of Microbiology; University of Tartu; Tartu, Estonia.
Institute of Microbiology; University of Tartu; Tartu, Estonia; Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Clinic; Tartu University Hospital; Tartu, Estonia.
Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care; Tallinn Children's Hospital; Tallinn, Estonia.
Centre for Biology of Integrated Systems; Tallinn University of Technology; Tallinn, Estonia.



An increasing number of studies that are using high-throughput molecular methods are rapidly extending our knowledge of gut microbial colonization in preterm infants whose immaturity and requirement for extensive treatment may result in altered colonization process. We aimed to describe the profile of gut microbiota in 50 extremely low birth weight (<1200 g) critically ill infants at three different time points during the first two months of life by using 16S rRNA gene specific sequencing.  


Stool samples were collected at the age of one week, one month and two months. Bacterial community profiling was done using universal amplification of 16S rRNA gene and 454 pyrosequencing.


The diversity of gut microbiota in preterm neonates in the first week of life was low but increased significantly over two months. The gut microbiota was dominated by facultative anaerobic bacteria (Staphylococcus spp. and Enterobacteriaceae) and lacked colonization with bacteria known to provide resistance against pathogens (Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus) throughout the study. Colonization of Escherichia coli and uncultured Veillionella was positively correlated with maturity. Infants born to mothers with chorioamnionitis had significantly higher bacterial diversity than those without.


High prevalence and abundance of potentially pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae and Staphylococcaceae with low prevalence and abundance of colonization resistance providing taxa bifidobacteria, Bacteroides and lactobacilli may lead to high infection risk via microbial translocation from the gut. Additionally, our data suggest that maternal chorioamnionitis may have an effect on the diversity of infants' gut microbiota; however, the mechanisms involved remain to be elucidated.


16S rRNA gene sequencing; extremely low birth weight; gut microbiota; microbiome profiling; preterm neonates

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