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COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Stool microflora in extremely low birthweight infants

I H Gewolb, R S Schwalbe, V L Taciak, T S Harrison, P Panigrahi
Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 1999, 80 (3): F167-73
10212075

AIM: To serially characterise aerobic and anaerobic stool microflora in extremely low birthweight infants and to correlate colonisation patterns with clinical risk factors.

METHODS: Stool specimens from 29 infants of birthweight <1000 g were collected on days 10, 20, and 30 after birth. Quantitative aerobic and anaerobic cultures were performed.

RESULTS: By day 30, predominant species were Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Enterbacter cloacae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus haemolyticus. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria spp were identified in only one infant. In breast milk fed (but not in formula fed) infants, the total number of bacterial species/stool specimen increased significantly with time (2.50 (SE 0.34) on day 10; 3.13 (0.38) on day 20; 4.27 (0.45) on day 30) as did quantitative bacterial counts; Gram negative species accounted for most of the increase. On day 30, significant inverse correlations were found between days of previous antibiotic treatment and number of bacterial species (r=0.491) and total organisms/g of stool (r=0.482). Gestational age, birthweight, maternal antibiotic or steroid treatment, prolonged rupture of the membranes, and mode of delivery did not seem to affect colonisation patterns.

CONCLUSIONS: The gut of extremely low birthweight infants is colonised by a paucity of bacterial species. Breast milking and reduction of antibiotic exposure are critical to increasing fecal microbial diversity.

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