Metagenomic Characterisation of the Gut Microbiome and Effect of Complementary Feeding on Bifidobacterium spp. in Australian Infants

Kimberley Parkin, Debra J. Palmer, Valerie Verhasselt, Nelly Amenyogbe, Matthew N. Cooper, Claus T. Christophersen, Susan L. Prescott, Desiree Silva, David Martino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Complementary feeding induces dramatic ecological shifts in the infant gut microbiota toward more diverse compositions and functional metabolic capacities, with potential implications for immune and metabolic health. The aim of this study was to examine whether the age at which solid foods are introduced differentially affects the microbiota in predominantly breastfed infants compared with predominantly formula-fed infants. We performed whole-genome shotgun metagenomic sequencing of infant stool samples from a cohort of six-month-old Australian infants enrolled in a nested study within the ORIGINS Project longitudinal birth cohort. Infants born preterm or those who had been administered antibiotics since birth were excluded. The taxonomic composition was highly variable among individuals at this age. Predominantly formula-fed infants exhibited a higher microbiome diversity than predominantly breastfed infants. Among the predominantly breastfed infants, the introduction of solid foods prior to five months of age was associated with higher alpha diversity than solid food introduction after six months of age, primarily due to the loss of Bifidobacterium infantis. In contrast, the age at which solid food was introduced was not associated with the overall change in diversity among predominantly formula-fed infants but was associated with compositional changes in Escherichia abundance. Examining the functional capacity of the microbiota in relation to these changes, we found that the introduction of solid foods after six months of age was associated with elevated one-carbon compound metabolic pathways in both breastfed and formula-fed infants, although the specific metabolic sub-pathways differed, likely reflecting different taxonomic compositions. Our findings suggest that the age of commencement of solid foods influences the gut microbiota composition differently in predominantly breastfed infants than in predominantly formula-fed infants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number228
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2024


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