Intestinal microbiota in infants at high risk for allergy: Effects of prebiotics and role in eczema development

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2018 Apr;141(4):1334-1342.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2017.05.054. Epub 2017 Sep 1.


Background: Development of the gut microbiota in infancy is important in maturation of the immune system. Deviations in colonization patterns have been associated with allergic manifestations such as eczema, but exact microbiome dysfunctions underlying allergies remain unclear. We studied the gut microbiota of 138 infants at increased risk of allergy, participating in a clinical trial investigating the effectiveness of a partially hydrolyzed protein formula supplemented with nondigestible oligosaccharides on the prevention of eczema.

Objective: The effects of interventions and breast-feeding on fecal microbiota were investigated. Additionally, we aimed to identify microbial patterns associated with the onset of eczema.

Methods: Bacterial taxonomic compositions in the first 26 weeks of life were analyzed by using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Additionally, fecal pH and microbial metabolite levels were measured.

Results: Fecal microbial composition, metabolites, and pH of infants receiving partially hydrolyzed protein formula supplemented with nondigestible oligosaccharides was closer to that of breast-fed infants than that of infants receiving standard cow's milk formula. Infants with eczema by 18 months showed discordant development of bacterial genera of Enterobacteriaceae and Parabacteroides species in the first 26 weeks, as well as decreased acquisition of lactate-utilizing bacteria producing butyrate, namely Eubacterium and Anaerostipes species, supported by increased lactate and decreased butyrate levels.

Conclusions: We showed that a partially hydrolyzed protein infant formula with specific prebiotics modulated the gut microbiota closer to that of breast-fed infants. Additionally, we identified a potential link between microbial activity and onset of eczema, which might reflect a suboptimal implementation of gut microbiota at specific developmental stages in infants at high risk for allergy.

Keywords: Allergy; butyrate; eczema; gastrointestinal; infants; lactate; microbiome; microbiota; prebiotics; short-chain fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eczema / microbiology
  • Eczema / prevention & control*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula / chemistry*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Prebiotics*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Prebiotics