Human microbiome variation associated with race and ethnicity emerges as early as 3 months of age

Elizabeth K. Mallott, Alexandra R. Sitarik, Leslie D. Leve, Camille Cioffi, Carlos A. Camargo, Kohei Hasegawa, Seth R. Bordenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Human microbiome variation is linked to the incidence, prevalence, and mortality of many diseases and associates with race and ethnicity in the United States. However, the age at which microbiome variability emerges between these groups remains a central gap in knowledge. Here, we identify that gut microbiome variation associated with race and ethnicity arises after 3 months of age and persists through childhood. One-third of the bacterial taxa that vary across caregiver-identified racial categories in children are taxa reported to also vary between adults. Machine learning modeling of childhood microbiomes from 8 cohort studies (2,756 samples from 729 children) distinguishes racial and ethnic categories with 87% accuracy. Importantly, predictive genera are also among the top 30 most important taxa when childhood microbiomes are used to predict adult self-identified race and ethnicity. Our results highlight a critical developmental window at or shortly after 3 months of age when social and environmental factors drive race and ethnicity-associated microbiome variation and may contribute to adult health and health disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3002230
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number8 August
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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