Gut microbiota development during infancy: Impact of introducing allergenic foods

Tom Marrs, Jay Hyun Jo, Michael R. Perkin, Damian W. Rivett, Adam A. Witney, Kenneth D. Bruce, Kirsty Logan, Joanna Craven, Suzana Radulovic, Serge A. Versteeg, Ronald van Ree, W. H.Irwin McLean, David P. Strachan, Gideon Lack, Heidi H. Kong, Carsten Flohr*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The gut microbiota potentially plays an important role in the immunologic education of the host during early infancy. Objective: We sought to determine how the infant gut microbiota evolve during infancy, particularly in relation to hygiene-related environmental factors, atopic disorders, and a randomized introduction of allergenic solids. Methods: A total of 1303 exclusively breast-fed infants were enrolled in a dietary randomized controlled trial (Enquiring About Tolerance study) from 3 months of age. In this nested longitudinal study, fecal samples were collected at baseline, with additional sampling of selected cases and controls at 6 and 12 months to study the evolution of their gut microbiota, using 16S ribosomal RNA gene-targeted amplicon sequencing. Results: In the 288 baseline samples from exclusively breast-fed infant at 3 months, the gut microbiota was highly heterogeneous, forming 3 distinct clusters: Bifidobacterium-rich, Bacteroides-rich, and Escherichia/Shigella-rich. Mode of delivery was the major discriminating factor. Increased Clostridium sensu stricto relative abundance at 3 months was associated with presence of atopic dermatitis on examination at age 3 and 12 months. From the selected cases and controls with longitudinal samples (n = 70), transition to Bacteroides-rich communities and influx of adult-specific microbes were observed during the first year of life. The introduction of allergenic solids promoted a significant increase in Shannon diversity and representation of specific microbes, such as genera belonging to Prevotellaceae and Proteobacteria (eg, Escherichia/Shigella), as compared with infants recommended to exclusively breast-feed. Conclusions: Specific gut microbiota characteristics of samples from 3-month-old breast-fed infants were associated with cesarean birth, and greater Clostridium sensu stricto abundance was associated with atopic dermatitis. The randomized introduction of allergenic solids from age 3 months alongside breast-feeding was associated with differential dynamics of maturation of the gut microbial communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-621.e9
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Atopic dermatitis
  • bacteria
  • colonization
  • diet
  • environment
  • food
  • microbiome
  • tolerance


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