Early-Life Development of the Bifidobacterial Community in the Infant Gut
International Journal of Molecular Sciences
The establishment of the gut microbiota poses implications for short and long-term health. Bifidobacterium is an important taxon in early life, being one of the most abundant genera in the infant intestinal microbiota and carrying out key functions for maintaining host-homeostasis. Recent metagenomic studies have shown that different factors, such as gestational age, delivery mode, or feeding habits, affect the gut microbiota establishment at high phylogenetic levels. However, their impact on
... , their impact on the specific bifidobacterial populations is not yet well understood. Here we studied the impact of these factors on the different Bifidobacterium species and subspecies at both the quantitative and qualitative levels. Fecal samples were taken from 85 neonates at 2, 10, 30, 90 days of life, and the relative proportions of the different bifidobacterial populations were assessed by 16S rRNA–23S rRNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region sequencing. Absolute levels of the main species were determined by q-PCR. Our results showed that the bifidobacterial population establishment is affected by gestational age, delivery mode, and infant feeding, as it is evidenced by qualitative and quantitative changes. These data underline the need for understanding the impact of perinatal factors on the gut microbiota also at low taxonomic levels, especially in the case of relevant microbial populations such as Bifidobacterium. The data obtained provide indications for the selection of the species best suited for the development of bifidobacteria-based products for different groups of neonates and will help to develop rational strategies for favoring a healthy early microbiota development when this process is challenged.