Aim: To describe gut colonization in preterm infants using standard culture and 16S gene rRNA profiling, exploring differences in healthy infants and those who developed NEC/late onset sepsis (LOS).
Methods: Ninety-nine stools from 38 infants of median 27-week gestation were cultured; 44 stools from 27 infants had their microbial profiles determined by 16S. Ordination analyses explored effects of patient variables on gut communities.
Results: Standard microbiological culture identified a mean of two organisms (range 0–7), DGGE 12 (range 3–18) per patient. Enterococcus faecalis and coagulase negative staphylococci (CONS) were most common by culture (40% and 39% of specimens). Meconium was not sterile. No fungi were cultured. Bacterial community structures in infants with NEC and LOS differed from healthy infants. Infants who developed NEC carried more CONS (45% vs 30%) and less Enterococcus faecalis (31% vs 57%). 16S identified Enterobacter and Staphylococcus presence associated with NEC/LOS, respectively.
Conclusions: Important differences were found in the gut microbiota of preterm infants who develop NEC/LOS. The relationship of these changes to current practices in neonatal intensive care requires further exploration.