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Preemies’ gut bacteria may depend more on gestational age than environment​

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Scientists believe babies are born with digestive systems containing few or no bacteria. Their guts then quickly become colonized by microbes — good and bad — as they nurse or take bottles, receive medication and even as they are passed from one adoring relative to another.

However, in infants born prematurely, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that the population of bacteria in babies’ gastrointestinal tracts may depend more on their biological makeup and gestational age at birth than on environmental factors. The scientists discovered that bacterial communities assemble in an orderly, choreographed progression, with the pace of that assembly slowest in infants born most prematurely.
 
 

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