Spanish researchers have traced the bacterial microbiota map in breast milk, which is often the main source of nourishment for newborns. The study has revealed a larger microbial diversity than originally thought —more than 700 species.
The breast milk received from the mother is one of the factors determining how the bacterial flora will develop in the newborn baby. However, the composition and the biological role of these bacteria in infants remain unknown.
A group of Spanish scientists has now used a technique based on massive DNA sequencing to identify the set of bacteria contained within breast milk called the microbiome. Thanks to their study, pre- and postnatal variables influencing the microbial richness of milk can now be determined. Colostrum is the first secretion of the mammary glands after giving birth and in some of the samples taken of this liquid, more than 700 species of these microorganisms were found, which is more than originally expected by experts.
The results have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "This is one of the first studies to document such diversity using the pyrosequencing technique (a large scale DNA sequencing determination technique) on colostrum samples on the one hand, and breast milk on the other, the latter being collected after one and six months of breastfeeding," explain the coauthors, María Carmen Collado, a researcher at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA-CSIC) and Alex Mira, a researcher at the Higher Public Health Research Centre (CSISP-GVA).
The most common bacterial genera in the colostrum samples were Weissella, Leuconostoc, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Lactococcus. In the fluid developed between the first and sixth months of breastfeeding, bacteria typical of the oral cavity were observed, such as villanelle, leptotrichia, and prevotella. "We are not yet able to determine if these bacteria colonize the mouth of the baby or whether oral bacteria of the breastfed baby enter the breast milk and thus change its composition," outline the authors.