Variable preterm oral microbiome stabilizes and reflects a full-term infant profile within three months

N3RO Steering Committee

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3 Scopus citations


Background: Preterm infants suffer higher morbidity and mortality rates compared to full-term infants, but little is known about how changes to oral and respiratory tract microbiota may impact disease development. Methods: Here, very preterm neonates (n = 50) were selected to study oral and respiratory microbiota development during the first few months post-birth, where 26 individuals were diagnosed with BPD and/or sepsis. These infants were compared to 14 healthy full-term infants and 16 adults. Microbiota diversity, composition, and species abundances were calculated from 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences in buccal swabs and tracheal aspirates at two time points (within a week and 1–3 months post-birth). Results: Collection time point was the biggest factor to significantly influence the preterm oral microbial diversity and composition. In addition, BPD and sepsis were linked to distinct preterm oral microbiota diversity and composition, and opportunistic pathogens previously associated with these diseases were identified in the initial sample for both healthy preterm neonates and those with the disease. Compared to the full-term infant and adult dataset, preterm infant diversity and composition was initially significantly different, but resembled full-term infant diversity and composition over time. Conclusion: Overall, consequences of microbiota development need further examination in preterm infant infections and later development. Impact: Non-gut microbiota research on preterm infants is limited.At one week post-birth, preterm infants harbor distinct oral microbiota that are not shared with full-term children or adults, eventually becoming similar to full-term infants at 36 weeks postmenstrual age.DNA from potential opportunistic pathogens was observed in the mouth and lungs of preterm infants within a week of birth, and microbes associated with BPD were identified in the lungs.Oral microbiota in preterm infants over the first 2–3 months is unique and may be connected to short- and long-term health outcomes in these children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPediatric Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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