Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are structurally diverse unconjugated glycans with a composition unique to each lactating mother. While HMOs have been shown to have an impact on the development of infant gut microbiota, it is not well known if HMOs also already affect milk microbial composition. To address this question, we analysed eleven colostrum samples for HMO content by high-pressure liquid chromatography and microbiota composition by quantitative PCR. Higher total HMO concentration was associated with higher counts of Bifidobacterium spp. (ρ=0.63, P=0.036). A distinctive effect was seen when comparing different HMO groups: positive correlations were observed between sialylated HMOs and Bifidobacterium breve (ρ=0.84, P=0.001), and non-fucosylated/non-sialylated HMOs and Bifidobacterium longum group (ρ=0.65, P=0.030). In addition to associations between HMOs and bifidobacteria, positive correlations were observed between fucosylated HMOs and Akkermansia muciniphila (ρ=0.70, P=0.017), and between fucosylated/sialylated HMOs and Staphylococcus aureus (ρ=0.75, P=0.007). Our results suggest that the characterised HMOs have an effect on specific microbial groups in human milk. Both oligosaccharides and microbes provide a concise inoculum for the compositional development of the infant gut microbiota.
Keywords: bifidobacteria; human milk oligosaccharide; microbiota.