Bifidobacterium Species Colonization in Infancy: A Global Cross-Sectional Comparison by Population History of Breastfeeding

Diana H. Taft, Zachery T. Lewis, Nhu Nguyen, Steve Ho, Chad Masarweh, Vanessa Dunne-Castagna, Daniel J. Tancredi, M. Nazmul Huda, Charles B. Stephensen, Katie Hinde, Erika von Mutius, Pirkka V. Kirjavainen, Jean Charles Dalphin, Roger Lauener, Josef Riedler, Jennifer T. Smilowitz, J. Bruce German, Ardythe L. Morrow, David A. Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Bifidobacterium species are beneficial and dominant members of the breastfed infant gut microbiome; however, their health benefits are partially species-dependent. Here, we characterize the species and subspecies of Bifidobacterium in breastfed infants around the world to consider the potential impact of a historic dietary shift on the disappearance of B. longum subsp. infantis in some populations. Across populations, three distinct patterns of Bifidobacterium colonization emerged: (1) The dominance of Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis, (2) prevalent Bifidobacterium of multiple species, and (3) the frequent absence of any Bifidobacterium. These patterns appear related to a country’s history of breastfeeding, with infants in countries with historically high rates of long-duration breastfeeding more likely to be colonized by B. longum subspecies infantis compared with infants in countries with histories of shorter-duration breastfeeding. In addition, the timing of infant colonization with B. longum subsp. infantis is consistent with horizontal transmission of this subspecies, rather than the vertical transmission previously reported for other Bifidobacterium species. These findings highlight the need to consider historical and cultural influences on the prevalence of gut commensals and the need to understand epidemiological transmission patterns of Bifidobacterium and other major commensals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1423
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • Bifidobacterium
  • breastfeeding
  • infants
  • microbial extinction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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