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Obstetrics - Women's Health

Characterization of the Diversity and Temporal Stability of Bacterial Communities in Human Milk
Published: Friday, June 17, 2011
Author: Katherine M. Hunt et al.

by Katherine M. Hunt, James A. Foster, Larry J. Forney, Ursel M. E. Schütte, Daniel L. Beck, Zaid Abdo, Lawrence K. Fox, Janet E. Williams, Michelle K. McGuire, Mark A. McGuire

Recent investigations have demonstrated that human milk contains a variety of bacterial genera; however, as of yet very little work has been done to characterize the full diversity of these milk bacterial communities and their relative stability over time. To more thoroughly investigate the human milk microbiome, we utilized microbial identification techniques based on pyrosequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene. Specifically, we characterized the bacterial communities present in milk samples collected from 16 women at three time-points over four weeks. Results indicated that milk bacterial communities were generally complex; several genera represented greater than 5% of the relative community abundance, and the community was often, yet not always, stable over time within an individual. These results support the conclusion that human milk, which is recommended as the optimal nutrition source for almost all healthy infants, contains a collection of bacteria more diverse than previously reported. This finding begs the question as to what role this community plays in colonization of the infant gastrointestinal tract and maintaining mammary health.