Examination of faecal Bifidobacterium populations in breast- and formula-fed infants during the first 18 months of life

Microbiology (Reading). 2010 Nov;156(Pt 11):3329-3341. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.043224-0. Epub 2010 Sep 23.


Bifidobacteria in the infant faecal microbiota have been the focus of much interest, especially during the exclusive milk-feeding period and in relation to the fortification of infant formulae to better mimic breast milk. However, longitudinal studies examining the diversity and dynamics of the Bifidobacterium population of infants are lacking, particularly in relation to the effects of weaning. Using a polyphasic strategy, the Bifidobacterium populations of breast- and formula-fed infants were examined during the first 18 months of life. Bifidobacterium-specific denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis demonstrated that breast-fed infants harboured greater diversity than formula-fed infants and the diversity of the infants' Bifidobacterium populations increased with weaning. Twenty-seven distinctive banding profiles were observed from ∼1100 infant isolates using ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis, 14 biotypes of which were confirmed to be members of the genus Bifidobacterium. Two profiles (H, Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis; and I, Bifidobacterium bifidum) were common culturable biotypes, seen in 9/10 infants, while profile E (Bifidobacterium breve) was common among breast-fed infants. Overall, inter- and intra-individual differences were observed in the Bifidobacterium populations of infants between 1 and 18 months of age, although weaning was associated with increased diversity of the infant Bifidobacterium populations. Breast-fed infants generally harboured a more complex Bifidobacterium microbiota than formula-fed infants.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bifidobacterium / genetics
  • Bifidobacterium / growth & development
  • Bifidobacterium / isolation & purification*
  • Biodiversity
  • Breast Feeding*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer / genetics
  • Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Species Specificity
  • Weaning


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer