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Contributions to human breast milk microbiome and enteromammary transfer of Bifidobacterium breve


Increasing evidence supports the importance of the breast milk microbiome in seeding the infant gut. However, the origin of bacteria in milk and the process of milk microbe-mediated seeding of infant intestine need further elucidation. Presumed sources of bacteria in milk include locations of mother-infant and mother-environment interactions. We investigate the role of mother-infant interaction on breast milk microbes. Shotgun metagenomics and 16S rRNA gene sequencing identified milk microbes of mother-infant pairs in breastfed infants and in infants that have never latched. Although breast milk has low overall biomass, milk microbes play an important role in seeding the infant gut. Breast milk bacteria were largely comprised of Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Acinetobacter, and Enterobacter primarily derived from maternal areolar skin and infant oral sites in breastfeeding pairs. This suggests that the process of breastfeeding is a potentially important mechanism for propagation of breast milk microbes through retrograde flux via infant oral and areolar skin contact. In one infant delivered via Caesarian section, a distinct strain of Bifidobacteria breve was identified in maternal rectum, breast milk and the infant's stool potentially suggesting direct transmission. This may support the existence of microbial translocation of this anaerobic bacteria via the enteromammary pathway in humans, where maternal bacteria translocate across the maternal gut and are transferred to the mammary glands. Modulating sources of human milk microbiome seeding potentially imply opportunities to ultimately influence the development of the infant microbiome and health.

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