Infant microbiomes lack B. infantis in developed nations

Infant microbiomes lack B. infantis in developed nations

Originally published on Dark Daily

Another key insight into how the human microbiome performs essential functions has been discovered by a research team at the University of California, Davis (UCD). They have learned that nearly all babies born in developed nations no longer have a specific strain of bacteria called B. infantis, which digests a certain type of sugar found in breast milk.

Microbiologists, clinical laboratory scientist, and pathologists will find the UCD researcher’s discovery to be a fascinating insight into a newly-understood function of the human microbiome. Assuming that further research confirms these early findings, it also could lead to a medical laboratory assay for use during pregnancy or after delivery that would enable physicians to determine if the newborn is missing this strain of bacteria and what therapies would be appropriate.

Babies in Developed Nations Lack Beneficial B. infantis Bacteria

“The central benefits of having a microbiota dominated by B. infantis is that it crowds all the other guys out—especially pathogenic bacteria, which can cause both acute illnesses and chronic inflammation that leads to disease,” UC Davis researcher Bruce German, PhD, Professor and Chemist, Food Science and Technology, told the New York Times.

The UC Davis researchers published their study findings in mSphere, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. In their paper they note that Bifidobacterium Infantis or B. infantis, a beneficial bacteria that aids in digestion, is missing from the microbiomes of infants in developed nations, such as the United States.

The study hypothesized that the reduction and eventual absence of B. infantis in American babies was the consequence of three factors:

  • An increase in cesarean births;
  • Use of commercial formulas instead of breast milk; and,
  • Heightened use of antibiotics.

According to the New York Times, “Dr. German and his colleagues learned about the missing bacterium by studying breast milk. They found that the milk contains an abundance of oligosaccharides, carbohydrates that babies are incapable of digesting. Why would they be there if babies can’t digest them? They realized that these carbohydrates weren’t feeding the baby—they were feeding B. infantis.”

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