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Pediatr Res. 2018 Jul;84(1):71-79. doi: 10.1038/s41390-018-0022-z. Epub 2018 May 23.

The premature infant gut microbiome during the first 6 weeks of life differs based on gestational maturity at birth.

Author information

1
Department of Genetics, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA.
2
Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH, USA.
3
Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA.
4
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA.
5
Department of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH, USA.
6
Josephine Bay Paul Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, USA.
7
Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA.
8
Penn Institute for Biomedical Informatics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
9
Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA. Anne.G.Hoen@dartmouth.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The impact of degree of prematurity at birth on premature infant gut microbiota has not been extensively studied in comparison to term infants in large cohorts.

METHODS:

To determine the effect of gestational age at birth and postnatal exposures on gut bacterial colonization in infants, we analyzed 65 stool samples from 17 premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit, as well as 13 samples from 13 mostly moderate-to-late premature infants and 189 samples from 176 term infants in the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study. Gut colonization patterns were determined with 16S rDNA microbiome profiling.

RESULTS:

Gut bacterial alpha-diversity differed between premature and term infants at 6 weeks of age, after adjusting for exposures (p = 0.027). Alpha-diversity varied between extremely premature (<28 weeks gestation) and very premature infants (≥28 but <32 weeks, p = 0.011), as well as between extremely and moderate-to-late premature infants (≥32 and <37 weeks, p = 0.004). Newborn antibiotic use among premature infants was associated with lower Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides abundance (p = 0.015 and p = 0.041).

CONCLUSION:

Gestational age at birth and early antibiotic exposure have significant effects on the premature infant gut microbiota.

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