It is generally believed that the infant's microbiota is established during the first 1-2 years of life. However, there is scarce data on its characterization and its comparison to the adult-like microbiota in consecutive years.
Aim: To characterize and compare the intestinal microbiota in healthy young children (1-4 years) and healthy adults from the North Carolina region in the U.S. using high-throughput bacterial phylogenetic microarray analysis.
Methods: Detailed characterization and comparison of the intestinal microbiota of healthy children aged 1-4 years old (n = 28) and healthy adults of 21-60 years (n = 23) was carried out using the Human Intestinal Tract Chip (HITChip) phylogenetic microarray targeting the V1 and V6 regions of 16S rRNA and quantitative PCR.
Results: The HITChip microarray data indicate that Actinobacteria, Bacilli, Clostridium cluster IV and Bacteroidetes are the predominant phylum-like groups that exhibit differences between young children and adults. The phylum-like group Clostridium cluster XIVa was equally predominant in young children and adults and is thus considered to be established at an early age. The genus-like level show significant 3.6 fold (higher or lower) differences in the abundance of 26 genera between young children and adults. Young U.S. children have a significantly 3.5-fold higher abundance of Bifidobacterium species than the adults from the same location. However, the microbiota of young children is less diverse than that of adults.
Conclusions: We show that the establishment of an adult-like intestinal microbiota occurs at a later age than previously reported. Characterizing the microbiota and its development in the early years of life may help identify 'windows of opportunity' for interventional strategies that may promote health and prevent or mitigate disease processes.