Infant nutrition and the gut microbiota

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Murphy, Kiera
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University College Cork
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Establishment of the intestinal microbiota commences at birth and this colonisation is influenced by a number of factors including mode of delivery, gestational age, mode of feeding, environmental factors and host genetics. As this initial establishment may well influence the health of an individual later in life, it is imperative to understand this process. Therefore, this thesis set out to investigate how early infant nutrition influences the development of a healthy gut microbiota. As part of the INFANTMET project, the intestinal microbiota of 199 breastfed infants was investigated using both culture-dependent and culture-independent approaches. This study revealed that delivery mode and gestational age had a significant impact on early microbial communities. In order to understand host genotype-microbiota interactions, the gut microbiota composition of dichorionic triplets was also investigated. The results suggested that initially host genetics play a significant role in the composition of an individual’s gut microbiota, but by month 12 environmental factors are the major determinant. To investigate the origin of hydrogen sulphide in a case of nondrug- induced sulfhemoglobinemia in a preterm infant, the gut microbiota composition was determined. This analysis revealed the presence of Morganella morganii, a producer of hydrogen sulphide and hemolysins, at a relative abundance 38%, which was not detected in control infants. Following on from this, the negative and short term consequences of intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis exposure on the early infant intestinal microbiota composition were demonstrated, particularly in breast-fed infants, which are recovered by day 30. Finally, the composition of the breast milk microbiota over the first three months of life was characterised. A core of 12 genera were identified amongst women and the remainder comprised some 195 genera which were individual specific and subject to variations over time. The results presented in this thesis have demonstrated that the development of the infant gut microbiota is complex and highly individual. Clear alterations in the intestinal microbiota establishment process in C-section delivered, preterm and antibiotic exposed infants were shown. Taken together, long-term health benefits for infants, particularly those vulnerable groups, may be conferred through the design of probiotic and prebiotic food ingredients and supplements.
Infantmet , Infant nutrition , Human gut microbiome , Bifidobacteria , 16S rRNA sequencing
Murphy, K. 2016. Infant nutrition and the gut microbiota. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.