Preterm Birth Has Effects on Gut Colonization in Piglets Within the First 4 Weeks of Life


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Abstract

Objectives:Preterm neonates have an immature gastrointestinal tract and show an altered bacterial colonization of the gut. However, it is not clear if such immature gut microbiota (GM) colonization is induced by specific delivery, diet, environment, and/or host factors related to preterm birth. Using piglets as models for infants, we hypothesized that both shortened gestational age (GA) and start of enteral feeding affect GM composition after caesarean delivery and rearing in identical environments.Methods:Caesarean-delivered preterm and term pigs were reared in incubators and fed total parenteral nutrition (TPN) or gradually increasing early enteral feeding (EEF) for 5 days, followed by full enteral feeding with bovine milk until day 26. GM composition was determined by 16S rRNA gene-amplicon sequencing and luminal short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) by GC-MS.Results:Both GA and EEF feeding affected GM composition on day 5, but only the GA effect persisted until day 26. On day 5, Enterobacteriaceae were dominant, with Lachnospiraceae members also being abundant. Enterobacteriaceae still dominated the GM at day 26 but with higher Akkermansia relative abundance in term pigs. Colonic concentrations of acetate and propionate were higher, and formate lower in term pigs, relative to preterm pigs on day 26.Conclusions:Preterm and term piglets, born and reared in similar ways, show differences in GM colonization during the first 4 weeks of life, which may play a role for early and later gut dysfunction resulting from preterm birth.

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