The Effects of Genetic Relatedness on the Preterm Infant Gut Microbiota

Shen Jean Lim, Miriam Aguilar-Lopez, Christine Wetzel, Samia V.O. Dutra, Vanessa Bray, Maureen W. Groer, Sharon M. Donovan, Thao Ho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The preterm infant gut microbiota is influenced by environmental, endogenous, maternal, and genetic factors. Although siblings share similar gut microbial composition, it is not known how genetic relatedness affects alpha diversity and specific taxa abundances in preterm infants. We analyzed the 16S rRNA gene content of stool samples, ≤ and >3 weeks postnatal age, and clinical data from preterm multiplets and singletons at two Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), Tampa General Hospital (TGH; FL, USA) and Carle Hospital (IL, USA). Weeks on bovine milk-based forti-fier (BMF) and weight gain velocity were significant predictors of alpha diversity. Alpha diversity between siblings were significantly correlated, particularly at ≤3 weeks postnatal age and in the TGH NICU, after controlling for clinical factors. Siblings shared higher gut microbial composition similarity compared to unrelated individuals. After residualizing against clinical covariates, 30 common operational taxonomic units were correlated between siblings across time points. These belonged to the bacterial classes Actinobacteria, Bacilli, Bacteroidia, Clostridia, Erysipelotrichia, and Negativicutes. Besides the influence of BMF and weight variables on the gut microbial diversity, our study identified gut microbial similarities between siblings that suggest genetic or shared maternal and environmental effects on the preterm infant gut microbiota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number278
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Gut microbiota
  • Human milk
  • Preterm infant
  • Triplets
  • Twins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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