Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) play an important role in the health of an infant as substrate for beneficial gut bacteria. Little is known about the effects of HMO composition and its changes on the morbidity and growth outcomes of infants living in areas with high infection rates. Mother's HMO composition and infant gut microbiota from 33 Gambian mother/infant pairs at 4, 16, and 20 weeks postpartum were analyzed for relationships between HMOs, microbiota, and infant morbidity and growth. The data indicate that lacto-N-fucopentaose I was associated with decreased infant morbidity, and 3′-sialyllactose was found to be a good indicator of infant weight-for-age. Because HMOs, gut microbiota, and infant health are interrelated, the relationship between infant health and their microbiome were analyzed. While bifidobacteria were the dominant genus in the infant gut overall, Dialister and Prevotella were negatively correlated with morbidity, and Bacteroides was increased in infants with abnormal calprotectin. Mothers nursing in the wet season (July to October) produced significantly less oligosaccharides compared to those nursing in the dry season (November to June). These results suggest that specific types and structures of HMOs are sensitive to environmental conditions, protective of morbidity, predictive of growth, and correlated with specific microbiota.
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