Colonization of the infant gut by microorganisms over the first year of life is crucial for development of a balanced immune response. Early alterations in the gastrointestinal microbiota of neonates has been linked with subsequent development of asthma and atopy in older children. Here we describe high-resolution culture-independent analysis of stool samples from 6-month old infants fed daily supplements of Lactobacillus casei subsp. Rhamnosus (LGG) or placebo in a double-blind, randomized Trial of Infant Probiotic Supplementation (TIPS). Bacterial community composition was examined using a high-density microarray, the 16S rRNA PhyloChip, and the microbial assemblages of infants with either high or low LGG abundance were compared. Communities with high abundance of LGG exhibited promotion of phylogenetically clustered taxa including a number of other known probiotic species, and were significantly more even in their distribution of community members. Ecologically, these aspects are characteristic of communities that are more resistant to perturbation and outgrowth of pathogens. PhyloChip analysis also permitted identification of taxa negatively correlated with LGG abundance that have previously been associated with atopy, as well as those positively correlated that may prove useful alternative targets for investigation as alternative probiotic species. From these findings we hypothesize that a key mechanism for the protective effect of LGG supplementation on subsequent development of allergic disease is through promotion of a stable, even, and functionally redundant infant gastrointestinal community.
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