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    Gut microbiota development during infancy: impact of introducing allergenic foods

    Marrs, T, Jo, JH, Perkin, MR, Rivett, DW ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1852-6137, Witney, AA, Bruce, KD, Logan, K, Craven, J, Radulovic, S, Versteeg, SA, van Ree, R, McLean, WHI, Strachan, DP, Lack, G, Kong, HH and Flohr, C (2021) Gut microbiota development during infancy: impact of introducing allergenic foods. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 147 (2). 613-621.e9. ISSN 0091-6749

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    Abstract

    Background: The gut microbiota potentially plays an important role in the immunologic education of the host during early infancy. Objective: We sought to determine how the infant gut microbiota evolve during infancy, particularly in relation to hygiene-related environmental factors, atopic disorders, and a randomized introduction of allergenic solids. Methods: A total of 1303 exclusively breast-fed infants were enrolled in a dietary randomized controlled trial (Enquiring About Tolerance study) from 3 months of age. In this nested longitudinal study, fecal samples were collected at baseline, with additional sampling of selected cases and controls at 6 and 12 months to study the evolution of their gut microbiota, using 16S ribosomal RNA gene-targeted amplicon sequencing. Results: In the 288 baseline samples from exclusively breast-fed infant at 3 months, the gut microbiota was highly heterogeneous, forming 3 distinct clusters: Bifidobacterium-rich, Bacteroides-rich, and Escherichia/Shigella-rich. Mode of delivery was the major discriminating factor. Increased Clostridium sensu stricto relative abundance at 3 months was associated with presence of atopic dermatitis on examination at age 3 and 12 months. From the selected cases and controls with longitudinal samples (n = 70), transition to Bacteroides-rich communities and influx of adult-specific microbes were observed during the first year of life. The introduction of allergenic solids promoted a significant increase in Shannon diversity and representation of specific microbes, such as genera belonging to Prevotellaceae and Proteobacteria (eg, Escherichia/Shigella), as compared with infants recommended to exclusively breast-feed. Conclusions: Specific gut microbiota characteristics of samples from 3-month-old breast-fed infants were associated with cesarean birth, and greater Clostridium sensu stricto abundance was associated with atopic dermatitis. The randomized introduction of allergenic solids from age 3 months alongside breast-feeding was associated with differential dynamics of maturation of the gut microbial communities.

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