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Gut bacteria are rarely shared by co-hospitalized premature infants, regardless of necrotizing enterocolitis development


Premature infants are highly vulnerable to aberrant gastrointestinal tract colonization, a process that may lead to diseases like necrotizing enterocolitis. Thus, spread of potential pathogens among hospitalized infants is of great concern. Here, we reconstructed hundreds of high-quality genomes of microorganisms that colonized co-hospitalized premature infants, assessed their metabolic potential, and tracked them over time to evaluate bacterial strain dispersal among infants. We compared microbial communities in infants who did and did not develop necrotizing enterocolitis. Surprisingly, while potentially pathogenic bacteria of the same species colonized many infants, our genome-resolved analysis revealed that strains colonizing each baby were typically distinct. In particular, no strain was common to all infants who developed necrotizing enterocolitis. The paucity of shared gut colonizers suggests the existence of significant barriers to the spread of bacteria among infants. Importantly, we demonstrate that strain-resolved comprehensive community analysis can be accomplished on potentially medically relevant time scales.

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