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Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2015 Feb 2;26:26050. doi: 10.3402/mehd.v26.26050. eCollection 2015.

The composition of the gut microbiota throughout life, with an emphasis on early life.

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Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Food Technology, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.
Teagasc Moorepark Food Research Centre, Fermoy, Ireland.
The Gut Health and Food Safety Institute Strategic Programme, Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK.
Department of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Aas, Norway.
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Unit of Autoimmunity and Immune Regulation, Division of Clinical Immunology, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.
School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.
Centre for Digestive and Gut Health, Imperial College London, London, UK.
Department of Biotechnology, Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology, Spanish National Research Council (IATA-CSIC), Valencia, Spain;


The intestinal microbiota has become a relevant aspect of human health. Microbial colonization runs in parallel with immune system maturation and plays a role in intestinal physiology and regulation. Increasing evidence on early microbial contact suggest that human intestinal microbiota is seeded before birth. Maternal microbiota forms the first microbial inoculum, and from birth, the microbial diversity increases and converges toward an adult-like microbiota by the end of the first 3-5 years of life. Perinatal factors such as mode of delivery, diet, genetics, and intestinal mucin glycosylation all contribute to influence microbial colonization. Once established, the composition of the gut microbiota is relatively stable throughout adult life, but can be altered as a result of bacterial infections, antibiotic treatment, lifestyle, surgical, and a long-term change in diet. Shifts in this complex microbial system have been reported to increase the risk of disease. Therefore, an adequate establishment of microbiota and its maintenance throughout life would reduce the risk of disease in early and late life. This review discusses recent studies on the early colonization and factors influencing this process which impact on health.


diet; gut; maternal; microbiota; neonate

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