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Scientists Sequence Gut Microbes of Premature Infant

Scientists have for the first time sequenced and reconstructed the genomes of most of the microbes in the gut of a premature newborn and documented how the microbe populations changed over time.

Further studies involving more infants could eventually help researchers understand the causes of various intestinal problems that afflict preemies, in particular the sometimes fatal necrotizing enterocolitis, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Stanford University. One unresolved question is whether these illnesses are caused by pathogenic strains of bacteria or just an imbalance in the microbe populations in the gut.

While this is not the first time that microbes in the human intestinal tract have been sequenced as a community, this is the first comprehensive look at a time series documenting colonization of the gut of a premature newborn, and one of few completely assembled community genomic datasets, said Jill Banfield, a UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science and of environmental science, policy and management.

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