Low birth weight infants are host to numerous microorganisms immediately after birth, and the microbiomes of their mouths and gut start out very similar but differentiate significantly by day 15 according to a study published in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
"We could watch this differentiation over time. With each passing day, two body sites [mouth and distal gut] became more and more differentiated from each other. It was a consistent pattern," says co-author Elizabeth K. Costello of Stanford University.
Low birth weight infants, who are often born premature, are more susceptible than normal weight infants to invasive infections like necrotizing enterocolitis, a vulnerability that may be related to colonization by bacteria from their surroundings. Unlike adults, the microbiomes of the mouth, skin, and gut of infants right after birth are undifferentiated, says Costello - the microbiomes look more or less similar at each of these body sites. The researchers sought to find out how rapidly the communities of microbes in these different sites take on a character of their own.
They examined changes in the oral, skin, and gut microbiomes of low birth weight infants over the course of the first three weeks after birth and found that although the microbiomes in each of these sites start our markedly similar, they gradually differentiate over time. This is the first time the differentiation of the microbiota in multiple body sites in newborn infants has been investigated.
"We chose to look at premature infants between the ages of eight and 21 days old and asked, over this time period, what is going on with their oral, gut and skin communities," says Costello. The period from 8 to 21 days after birth marks a critical window for colonization of an infant, and it's also the period of onset for necrotizing enterocolitis (although none of the infants in this study were struck by
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American Society for Microbiology