Ilias Lagkouvardos, Evangelia Intze, Monika Schaubeck, James PK. Rooney, Christina Hecht, Hugues Piloquet, Thomas Clavel


Background: Microbial colonization of the gastrointestinal tract after birth is an essential event that influences infant health with life-long consequences. Therefore, it is important to investigate strategies to positively modulate colonization in early life.

Objectives: This randomized, controlled intervention study included 540 infants to investigate the effects of a synbiotic intervention formula (IF) containing Limosilactobacillus fermentum CECT5716 and galacto-oligosaccharides on the fecal microbiome.

Methods: The fecal microbiota from infants was analyzed by 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing at 4, 12, and 24 months of age. Metabolites (e.g., short-chain fatty acids) and other milieu parameters (e.g., pH, humidity, and IgA) were also measured in stool samples.

Results: Microbiota profiles changed with age, with major differences in diversity and composition. Significant effects of the synbiotic IF compared with control formula (CF) were visible at month 4, including higher occurrence of Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillaceae and lower occurrence of Blautia spp., as well as Ruminoccocus gnavus and relatives. This was accompanied by lower fecal pH and concentrations of butyrate. After de novo clustering at 4 months of age, overall phylogenetic profiles of the infants receiving IF were closer to reference profiles of those fed with human milk than infants fed CF. The changes owing to IF were associated with fecal microbiota states characterized by lower occurrence of Bacteroides compared with higher levels of Firmicutes (valid name Bacillota), Proteobacteria (valid name Pseudomonadota), and Bifidobacterium at 4 months of age. These microbiota states were linked to higher prevalence of infants born by Cesarean section.

Conclusions: The synbiotic intervention influenced fecal microbiota and milieu parameters at an early age depending on the overall microbiota profiles of the infants, sharing a few similarities with breastfed infants.