Bifidobacteria and the infant gut: an example of co-evolution and natural selection

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2018 Jan;75(1):103-118. doi: 10.1007/s00018-017-2672-0. Epub 2017 Oct 5.


Throughout the human life, the gut microbiota interacts with us in a number of different ways, thereby influencing our health status. The acquisition of such an interactive gut microbiota commences at birth. Medical and environmental factors including diet, antibiotic exposure and mode of delivery are major factors that shape the composition of the microbial communities in the infant gut. Among the most abundant members of the infant microbiota are species belonging to the Bifidobacterium genus, which are believed to confer beneficial effects upon their host. Bifidobacteria may be acquired directly from the mother by vertical transmission and their persistence in the infant gut is associated with their saccharolytic activity toward glycans that are abundant in the infant gut. Here, we discuss the establishment of the infant gut microbiota and the contribution of bifidobacteria to this early life microbial consortium.

Keywords: Bifidobacteria; Genomics; Metagenomics; Microbiome; Microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bifidobacterium / genetics
  • Bifidobacterium / physiology*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Microbial Interactions / genetics
  • Microbial Interactions / physiology*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Time Factors


  • Polysaccharides