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Study Tracks Early Gut Microbiome Dynamics, Potential Ties to Childhood Growth

An international team reporting in Nature Communications outlines findings from a study following early gut microbiome development in children from a growth stunting-prone rural Zimbabwe region. Using 875 metagenomic sequencing sets generated on fecal samples collected over time from 335 infants and toddlers in rural Zimbabwe, the researchers found that the taxonomy of early gut microbial communities was not clearly linked to later growth, though their machine learning analyses pointed to microbial pathways showing modest relationships with childhood growth patterns. Likewise, interventions aimed at boosting growth did not shift early gut microbial community assembly, though gut microbiomes from HIV-exposed but uninfected children tended to have lower-than-usual Bifidobacterium microbes, along with a broader early diversification and maturity. "Collectively, these data suggest that HIV exposure shapes maturation of the infant gut microbiota, and that the functional composition of the infant gut microbiome is moderately predictive of infant growth in a population at high risk of stunting," the authors note, suggesting new but microbiome-targeting treatment approaches "may mitigate the poor clinical outcomes that are observed in [HIV-exposed but uninfected children], a growing population of children in sub-Saharan Africa."