Longitudinal Analysis of the Intestinal Microbiota in Persistently Stunted Young Children in South India

PLoS One. 2016 May 26;11(5):e0155405. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155405. eCollection 2016.


Stunting or reduced linear growth is very prevalent in low-income countries. Recent studies have demonstrated a causal relationship between alterations in the gut microbiome and moderate or severe acute malnutrition in children in these countries. However, there have been no primary longitudinal studies comparing the intestinal microbiota of persistently stunted children to that of non-stunted children in the same community. In this pilot study, we characterized gut microbial community composition and diversity of the fecal microbiota of 10 children with low birth weight and persistent stunting (cases) and 10 children with normal birth weight and no stunting (controls) from a birth cohort every 3 months up to 2 years of age in a slum community in south India. There was an increase in diversity indices (P <0.0001) with increasing age in all children. However, there were no differences in diversity indices or in the rates of their increase with increasing age between cases and controls. The percent relative abundance of the Bacteroidetes phylum was higher in stunted compared to control children at 12 months of age (P = 0.043). There was an increase in the relative abundance of this phylum with increasing age in all children (P = 0.0380) with no difference in the rate of increase between cases and controls. There was a decrease in the relative abundance of Proteobacteria (P = 0.0004) and Actinobacteria (P = 0.0489) with increasing age in cases. The microbiota of control children was enriched in probiotic species Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus mucosae, whereas that of stunted children was enriched in inflammogenic taxa including those in the Desulfovibrio genus and Campylobacterales order. Larger, longitudinal studies on the compositional and functional maturation of the microbiome in children are needed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Bacteria* / classification
  • Bacteria* / genetics
  • Bacteria* / metabolism
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Growth Disorders / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male