Very Preterm Children Gut Microbiota Comparison at the Neonatal Period of 1 Month and 3.5 Years of Life.


Prematurity is a risk factor for dysbiosis of the gut microbiota due to particular birth conditions and frequent prolonged hospitalization of neonates. Although gut microbiota colonization after birth and its establishment during the hospitalization period have been studied in preterm infants, data on gut microbiota following discharge, particularly during early childhood, are scarce. The present study investigated the relationship between gut microbiota at 1 month after birth (hospitalization period) and 3.5 years of age in 159 preterm children belonging to the French EPIFLORE prospective observational cohort study. Analysis using bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequencing showed that the gut microbiota of preterm neonates at 1 month was highly variable and characterized by six distinct enterotypes. In contrast, the gut microbiota of the same children at 3.5 years of age showed less variability, with only two discrete enterotypes. An absence of association between enterotypes at 1 month and 3.5 years of age was observed. While the alpha diversity of gut microbiota significantly increased between 1 month and 3.5 years of age, for both alpha and beta diversities, there was no correlation between the 1-month and 3.5-years time points. Comparison at 3.5 years between children born either preterm (n = 159) or full-term (n = 200) showed no differences in terms of enterotypes, but preterm children harbored a lower Shannon diversity index and a different overall composition of microbiota than full-term children. This study suggests that the characteristics of the early gut microbiota of preterm children are not predictive of the microbial community composition at 3.5 years of age. However, the impact of gestational age is still noticeable on the gut microbiota up to 3.5 years of age.