Scientific reports. 2018-03-22; 8.1: 5078.

HIV-exposure, early life feeding practices and delivery mode impacts on faecal bacterial profiles in a South African birth cohort

Claassen-Weitz S, Gardner-Lubbe S, Nicol P, Botha G, Mounaud S, Shankar J, Nierman WC, Mulder N, Budree S, Zar HJ, Nicol MP, Kaba M

PMID: 29567959


There are limited data on meconium and faecal bacterial profiles from African infants and their mothers. We characterized faecal bacterial communities of infants and mothers participating in a South African birth cohort. Stool and meconium specimens were collected from 90 mothers and 107 infants at birth, and from a subset of 72 and 36 infants at 4-12 and 20-28 weeks of age, respectively. HIV-unexposed infants were primarily exclusively breastfed at 4-12 (49%, 26/53) and 20-28 weeks (62%, 16/26). In contrast, HIV-exposed infants were primarily exclusively formula fed at 4-12 (53%; 10/19) and 20-28 weeks (70%, 7/10). Analysis (of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences of the V4 hypervariable region) of the 90 mother-infant pairs showed that meconium bacterial profiles [dominated by Proteobacteria (89%)] were distinct from those of maternal faeces [dominated by Firmicutes (66%) and Actinobacteria (15%)]. Actinobacteria predominated at 4-12 (65%) and 20-28 (50%) weeks. HIV-exposed infants had significantly higher faecal bacterial diversities at both 4-12 (p = 0.026) and 20-28 weeks (p = 0.002). HIV-exposed infants had lower proportions of Bifidobacterium (p = 0.010) at 4-12 weeks. Maternal faecal bacterial profiles were influenced by HIV status, feeding practices and mode of delivery. Further longitudinal studies are required to better understand how these variables influence infant and maternal faecal bacterial composition.