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ISME Journal

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Neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is an inflammatory intestinal disorder affecting preterm infants. Intestinal bacteria play a key role; however no causative pathogen has been identified. The purpose of this study was to determine if there are differences in microbial patterns which may be critical to the development of this disease. Fecal samples from twenty preterm infants, ten with NEC and ten matched controls (including four twin pairs) were obtained from patients in a single site Level III neonatal intensive care unit. Bacterial DNA from individual fecal samples were PCR amplified and subjected to terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and library sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to characterize diversity and structure of the enteric microbiota. The distribution of samples from NEC patients distinctly clustered separately from controls. Intestinal bacterial colonization in all preterm infants was notable for low diversity. Patients with NEC had even less diversity, an increase in abundance of Gammaproteobacteria, a decrease in other bacteria species, and had received a higher mean number of previous days of antibiotics. Our results suggest that NEC is associated with severe lack of microbiota diversity which may accentuate the impact of single dominant microorganisms favored by empiric and wide-spread use of antibiotics.


Accepted version. ISME Journal, Vol. 3 (2009): 944-954. DOI. © 2009 Springer. Used with permission.

Kathryn J. Malin was affiliated with the University of Chicago at the time of publication.

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