Acute necrotizing enterocolitis of preterm piglets is characterized by dysbiosis of ileal mucosa-associated bacteria

Gut Microbes. Jul-Aug 2011;2(4):234-43. doi: 10.4161/gmic.2.4.16332. Epub 2011 Jul 1.


Investigation of bacteria involved in pathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is limited by infant fragility, analysis restricted to feces, use of culture-based methods, and lack of clinically-relevant animal models. This study used a unique preterm piglet model to characterize spontaneous differences in microbiome composition of NEC-predisposed regions of gut. Preterm piglets (n=23) were cesarean-delivered and nurtured for 30 hours over which time 52% developed NEC. Bacterial DNA from ileal content, ileal mucosa, and colonic mucosa were PCR amplified, subjected to terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) analysis and targeted 16S rDNA qPCR. Preterm ileal mucosa was specifically bereft in diversity of bacteria compared to ileal content and colonic mucosa. Preterm ileum was restricted to representation by only Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Cyanobacteria and Chloroflexi. In piglets with NEC, ileal mucosa was uniquely characterized by increases in number of Firmicutes and diversity of phyla to include Actinobacteria and uncultured bacteria. Five specific TRFLP profiles, corresponding in closest identity to Clostridium butyricum, C. neonatale, C. proteolyticum, Streptomyces spp., and Leptolyngbya spp., were significantly more prevalent or observed only among samples from piglets with NEC. Total numbers of Clostridium spp. and C. butyricum were significantly greater in samples of NEC ileal mucosa but not ileal content or colonic mucosa. These results provide strong support for ileal mucosa as a focus for investigation of specific dysbiosis associated with NEC and suggest a significant role for Clostridium spp., and members of the Actinobacteria and Cyanobacteria in the pathogenesis of NEC in preterm piglets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ileum / microbiology*
  • Ileum / pathology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / microbiology*
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / pathology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Male
  • Metagenome
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Swine