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J Nutr. 2019 Jun 1;149(6):1075-1088. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz034.

Neonatal Vitamin A Supplementation and Vitamin A Status Are Associated with Gut Microbiome Composition in Bangladeshi Infants in Early Infancy and at 2 Years of Age.

Author information

Nutrition Department.
Immunobiology, Nutrition and Toxicology Laboratory, Infectious Diseases Division, icddr,b, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
US Department of Agriculture, Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Davis, CA.
Department of Food Science and Technology.
Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA.
Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA.



Infancy is a crucial period for establishing the intestinal microbiome. This process may be influenced by vitamin A (VA) status because VA affects intestinal immunity and epithelial integrity, factors that can, in turn, modulate microbiome development.


The aim of this study was to determine if neonatal VA supplementation (VAS) affected the abundance of Bifidobacterium, a beneficial commensal, or of Proteobacteria, a phylum containing enteric pathogens, in early (6-15 wk) or late (2 y) infancy. Secondary objectives were to determine if VAS affected the abundance of other bacterial taxa, and to determine if VA status assessed by measuring plasma retinol was associated with bacterial abundance.


Three hundred and six Bangladeshi infants were randomized by sex and birthweight status (above/below median) to receive 1 VA dose (50,000 IU) or placebo within 48 h of birth. Relative abundance at the genus level and above was assessed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. A terminal restriction fragment-length polymorphism assay was used to identify Bifidobacterium species and subspecies at 6 wk.


Linear regression showed that Bifidobacterium abundance in early infancy was lower in boys (median, 1st/3rd quartiles; 0.67, 0.52/0.78) than girls (0.73, 0.60/0.80; P = 0.003) but that boys receiving VAS (0.69, 0.55/0.78) had higher abundance than boys receiving placebo (0.65, 0.44/0.77; P = 0.039). However this difference was not seen in girls (VAS 0.71, 0.54/0.80; placebo 0.75, 0.63/0.81; P = 0.25). VAS did not affect Proteobacteria abundance. Sex-specific associations were also seen for VA status, including positive associations of plasma retinol with Actinobacteria (the phylum containing Bifidobacterium) and Akkermansia, another commensal with possible health benefits, for girls in late infancy.


Better VA status in infancy may influence health both in infancy and later in life by promoting the establishment of a healthy microbiota. This postulated effect of VA may differ between boys and girls. This trial was registered at as NCT02027610.


Akkermansia ; Bifidobacterium ; infant; microbiome; microbiota; retinol; retinol-binding protein; vitamin A

[Available on 2020-06-01]

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