Human Milk Microbiota in an Indigenous Population Is Associated with Maternal Factors, Stage of Lactation, and Breastfeeding Practices

Elsevier, Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 5, 1 April 2021
Lopez Leyva L., Gonzalez E., Li C., Ajeeb T., Solomons N.W., Agellon L.B. et al.

Background: Human milk contains a diverse community of bacteria that are modified by maternal factors, but whether these or other factors are similar in developing countries has not been explored. Our objective was to determine whether the milk microbiota was modified by maternal age, BMI, parity, lactation stage, subclinical mastitis (SCM), and breastfeeding practices in the first 6 mo of lactation in an indigenous population from Guatemala. Methods: For this cross-sectional study, Mam-Mayan indigenous mothers nursing infants aged <6 mo were recruited. Unilateral human milk samples were collected (n = 86) and processed for 16S rRNA sequencing at the genus level. Microbial diversity and relative abundance were compared with maternal factors [age, BMI, parity, stage of lactation, SCM, and 3 breastfeeding practices (exclusive, predominant, mixed)] obtained through questionnaires. Results: Streptococcus was the most abundant genus (33.8%), followed by Pseudomonas (18.7%) and Sphingobium (10.7%) but relative abundance was associated with maternal factors. First, Lactobacillus and Streptococcus were more abundant in early lactation whereas the common oral (Leptotrichia) and environmental (Comamonas) bacteria were more abundant in established lactation. Second, Streptococcus,Lactobacillus,Lactococcus,Leuconostoc, and Micrococcus had a higher abundance in multiparous mothers compared with primiparous mothers. Third, a more diverse microbiota characterized by a higher abundance of lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus,Leuconostoc, and Lactococcus), Leucobacter, and Micrococcus was found in mothers with a healthy BMI. Finally, distinct microbial communities differed by stage of lactation and by exclusive, predominant, or mixed breastfeeding practices. Conclusion: Milk bacterial communities in an indigenous community were associated with maternal factors. Higher microbial diversity was supported by having a healthy BMI, the absence of SCM, and by breastfeeding. Interestingly, breastfeeding practices when assessed by lactation stage were associated with distinct microbiota profiles.