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The development of the intestinal microbiome in premature infants affects gut maturity and may mediate the risk for necrotizing enterocolitis.  Dr. Gregory and colleagues demonstrate that preterm infants who receive expressed breast milk have greater initial bacterial diversity and more gradual acquisition of diversity compared to those who receive formula.  Supplementation with pasteurized donor human milk partially promoted a microbiome similar to that of breast-milk fed infants.

Key Findings

Feeding with breast milk appears to have a protective effect against gut immaturity in the preterm infant.


  • Gregory KE, Samuel BS, Houghteling P, Shan G, Ausubel FM, Sadreyev RI, Walker WA.  Influence of maternal breast milk ingestion on acquisition of the intestinal microbiome in preterm infants.  Microbiome. 2016 Dec 30;4(1):68.

Read More: Microbiome

Research Details

  • Research Center: Harvard Medical School
  • Featured NORC Member(s): Katherine Gregory, MD, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School; Frederick Ausubel, PhD, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Genomics and Cell Biology Core.  Ruslan Sadreyev, PhD, is an Instructor in Pathology at Harvard Medical School.  Allan Walker, MD, is the Conrad Taff Professor of Pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School.
  • Center Contribution: Dr. Ausubel is the Director of the Genomics and Cell Biology Core. Dr. Sadreyev is the Co-Associate Director of Genomics within the Genomics and Cell Biology Core, and Dr. Walker is the Former Director of the NORCH. Dr. Gregory is a NORCH member and former P&F awardee.

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