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Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria in Human Breast Milk: Influence of Antibiotherapy and Other Host and Clinical Factors

Soto, Ana*; Martín, Virginia; Jiménez, Esther*; Mader, Isabelle; Rodríguez, Juan M.*; Fernández, Leonides*

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: July 2014 - Volume 59 - Issue 1 - p 78–88
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000347
Original Articles: Hepatology and Nutrition

Objective: The objective of this work was to study the lactobacilli and bifidobacteria population in human milk of healthy women, and to investigate the influence that several factors (including antibioteraphy during pregnancy and lactation, country and date of birth, delivery mode, or infant age) may exert on such population.

Methods: A total of 160 women living in Germany or Austria provided the breast milk samples. Initially, 66 samples were randomly selected and cultured on MRS-Cys agar plates. Then, the presence of DNA from the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and from most of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species that were isolated, was assessed by qualitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using genus- and species-specific primers.

Results: Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria could be isolated from the milk of 27 (40.91%) and 7 (10.61%), respectively, of the 66 cultured samples. On the contrary, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium sequences were detected by PCR in 108 (67.50%) and 41 (25.62%), respectively, of the 160 samples analyzed. The Lactobacillus species most frequently isolated and detected was L salivarius (35.00%), followed by L fermentum (25.00%) and L gasseri (21.88%), whereas B breve (13.75%) was the bifidobacterial species most commonly recovered and whose DNA was most regularly found. The number of lactobacilli- or bifidobacteria-positive samples was significantly lower in women who had received antibiotherapy during pregnancy or lactation.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that either the presence of lactobacilli and/or bifidobacteria or their DNA may constitute good markers of a healthy human milk microbiota that has not been altered by the use of antibiotics.

*Departamento de Nutrición, Bromatología y Tecnología de los Alimentos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid

Probisearch, Tres Cantos, Spain

Department of Nutritional Science, HiPP GmbH & Co. Vertrieb KG, Pfaffenhofen, Germany.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr Leonides Fernández, Departamento de Nutrición, Bromatología y Tecnología de los Alimentos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria, Avda. Puerta de Hierro, s/n. 28040 Madrid, Spain (e-mail:

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This work was supported by a research contract funded by HiPP. Know-how derived from the FUN-C-FOOD (Consolider-Ingenio 2010) and AGL2010-15420 projects from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Spain) was applied in this study.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License, where it is permissible to download and share the work, provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially.

Received February 15, 2014

Accepted February 15, 2014

© 2014 by European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology,