Breast milk: a source of bifidobacteria for infant gut development and maturation?

Neonatology. 2007;92(1):64-6. doi: 10.1159/000100088. Epub 2007 Feb 23.


Background: The establishment of gut microbiota is a stepwise process contributing to gut development and maturation of the immune system. Aberrant gut microbiota at an early age may predispose to disease later in life. Breast-fed infants harbor a characteristic intestinal microbiota dominated by bifidobacteria.

Objectives: To assess, using molecular techniques (PCR), whether human milk contains bifidobacteria and to determine the bifidobacterial species present.

Methods: The presence of bifidobacteria in breast milk samples (n = 20) was qualitatively and quantitatively determined by using PCR and real-time PCR, respectively.

Results: Breast milk samples contained bifidobacteria. Bifidobacterium longum was the most widely found species followed by Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium catenulatum.

Conclusion: Breast milk contains bifidobacteria and specific Bifidobacterium species that may promote healthy microbiota development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bifidobacterium / genetics
  • Bifidobacterium / growth & development*
  • Child Development
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / growth & development*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / growth & development
  • Infant, Newborn / growth & development*
  • Milk, Human / microbiology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction