A new study by the SyMBIOTA research group, published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, found that 31% of the infants analyzed carried Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile) in their gut and that the colonization rate was lowest among babies who were exclusively breastfed.
“Some infants carry the diarrhea-causing bacterium C. difficile in their guts without any symptoms. However, when the levels of gut bacteria become imbalanced, this particular bacterium can multiply, causing illness and increasing the susceptibility to chronic disease later in childhood,” said senior author Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta. “We were interested in finding out the prevalence of C. difficile in the CHILD cohort and associations with the type of infant feeding.”
The study found that C. difficile colonization rates differed between feeding groups: 22.6% for exclusively breastfed infants; 36.0% for partially breastfed infants; and 49.6% for exclusively formula fed infants. It further found that breastfed infants colonized with C. difficile appeared to possess a gut microbiome that differs in other ways from that of non-colonized breastfed infants and resembles that of formula fed infants.
“This finding is of interest because although it was less common for breastfed infants to be C. difficile carriers, those that were colonized had fewer beneficial microbes such as Bifidobacteria and immune proteins like secretory IgA,” said first author Kelsea Drall, an M.Sc. graduate from the University of Alberta and an AllerGen trainee.