Occurrence of Neonatal Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Premature Neonates and Gut Microbiota: A Case-Control Prospective Multicenter Study


Background: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is still one of the leading causes of neonatal death. The present study reports the data from a French case-control prospective multicenter study.

Methods: A total of 146 preterm neonates (PNs) with or without NEC were included. Bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed on stool samples (n = 103). Specific culture media were used to isolate Escherichia coli, Clostridium butyricum, and Clostridium neonatale, and strains were phenotypically characterized.

Results: The gut microbiota of PNs was dominated by Firmicutes and Proteobacteria, and five enterotypes were identified. The microbiota composition was similar between NEC cases and PN controls. However, differences were observed in the relative abundance of Lactobacillus genus, which was significantly lower in the NEC group, whereas that of the Clostridium cluster III was significantly higher (p < 0.05). Within enterotypes, several phylotypes were significantly more abundant in NEC cases (p < 0.05). Regarding perinatal factors, a statistical association was found between the gut microbiota and cesarean delivery and antifungal therapy. In NEC cases and PN controls, the carriage rates and virulence genes of uropathogenic E. coli were equivalent based on culture. No correlation was found between E. coli, C. butyricum, and C. neonatale carriages, beta-lactam resistance, and antibiotic treatment.

Conclusions: At disease onset, our data support a microbiota dysbiosis between NEC and control infants at the genus level. In addition, it provides valuable information on bacterial antimicrobial susceptibility.