Intestinal microbiota development and gestational age in preterm neonates

Katri Korpela*, Elin W. Blakstad, Sissel J. Moltu, Kenneth Strømmen, Britt Nakstad, Arild E. Rønnestad, Kristin Brække, Per O. Iversen, Christian A. Drevon, Willem de Vos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


The intestinal microbiota is an important contributor to the health of preterm infants, and may be destabilized by a number of environmental factors and treatment modalities. How to promote the development of a healthy microbiota in preterm infants is largely unknown. We collected fecal samples from 45 breastfed preterm very low birth weight (birth weight < 1500 g) infants from birth until 60 days postnatal age to characterize the intestinal microbiota development during the first weeks of life in preterm infants. Fecal microbiota composition was determined by 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. The main driver of microbiota development was gestational age; antibiotic use had strong but temporary effects and birth mode had little influence. Microbiota development proceeded in four phases indicated by the dominance of Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Enterobacter, and finally Bifidobacterium. The Enterococcus phase was only observed among the extremely premature infants and appeared to delay the microbiota succession. The results indicate that hospitalized preterm infants receiving breast milk may develop a normal microbiota resembling that of term infants.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2018


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