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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Mar;80(6):2021-8. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03864-13. Epub 2014 Jan 17.

Taxonomic identification of commensal bacteria associated with the mucosa and digesta throughout the gastrointestinal tracts of preweaned calves.

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Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Bacterial colonization in the gastrointestinal tracts (GIT) of preweaned calves is very important, since it can influence early development and postweaning performance and health. This study investigated the composition of the bacteria along the GIT (rumen, jejunum, ileum, cecum, and colon) of preweaned bull calves (3 weeks old) using pyrosequencing to understand the segregation of bacteria between the mucosal surface and digesta. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that a total of 83 genera belonging to 13 phyla were distributed throughout the GIT of preweaned calves, with the Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Proteobacteria predominating. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) analysis of selected abundant bacterial genera (Prevotella, Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, and Faecalibacterium) revealed that their prevalence was significantly different among the GIT regions and between mucosa- and digesta-associated communities. Rumens contained the most diverse bacterial population, consisting of 47 genera, including 16 rumen-specific genera, followed by the large intestine and then the small intestine. Bacterial species richness was higher at the mucosal surface than in the local digesta, with the exception of the rumen. The majority of bacteria found on the rumen epithelial surface and within the small intestine could not be identified due to a lack of known genus-level information. Thus, future studies will be required to fully characterize the microbiome during the development of the rumens and the mucosal immune systems of newborn calves. This is the first study to analyze in depth the bacterial composition of the GIT microbiome in preweaned calves, which extends previous findings regarding early rumen colonization and bacterial segregation between mucosa- and digesta-associated microbial communities.

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