Early colonization of functional groups of microbes in the infant gut

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The colonization of the infant gut is crucial for early life development. Although the composition and diversity of the infant gut microbiota (GM) has been well described at a taxonomic level, functional aspects of this ecosystem remain unexplored. In the infant gut, lactate is produced by a number of bacteria and plays an important role in the trophic chain of the fermentation process. However, little is known about the lactate-utilizing bacteria (LUB) community in infants and their impact on gut health. By combining culture-based and molecular methods, we intensively studied LUB in fecal samples of 40 healthy infants on both taxonomic and functional levels. We demonstrated metabolic cross-feeding of lactate and identified keystone species specified for lactate utilization. The interactions of such species and their metabolic outcome could have direct impacts on infant health, either beneficial (production of short chain fatty acids) or detrimental (accumulation of hydrogen or hydrogen sulfide). We identified mode of delivery as a strong determinant for lactate-producing and -utilizing bacteria levels. These findings present the early establishment of GM with a novel perspective and emphasize the importance of lactate utilization in infancy.

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