The gut of the human neonate is colonized rapidly after birth from an early sparse and highly distinct microbiota to a more adult-like and convergent state, within 1 to 3 years. The progression of colonizing bacterial species is non-random. During the first months of life several shifts commonly occur in the species prevalent in our guts. Although the sequential progression of these species is remarkably consistent across individuals and geographies, there is inter-individual variation in the rate of progression. Our study and others suggest that the rate is influenced by environmental factors, and influences our future health. In this article, we review our recent contribution to cataloging the developing infant gut microbiota alongside other important recent studies. We suggest testable hypotheses that arise from this synthesis.
Keywords: Caesarean section; adiposity; defining/profiling gut microbiome; gestational age; gut microbiota; harnessing microbial strategies for treatment of human disease; immaturity; infancy; obesity; prematurity; vaginal delivery.