An obvious difference between breast-fed and formula-fed newborn infants is the development of the intestinal flora, considered to be of importance for protection against harmful micro-organisms and for the maturation of the intestinal immune system.
From each of six breast-fed and six formula-fed newborn infants, six fecal samples were obtained during the first 20 days of life. The microbial compositions of the samples were analyzed by culturing on specific media and by FISH, by using specific 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes.
After initial colonization, a selection of bacterial strains began in all infants, in which Bifidobacterium strains played an important role. In all breast-fed infants, bifidobacteria become dominant, whereas in most formula-fed infants similar amounts of Bacteroides and bifidobacteria (approximately 40%) were found. The minor components of the fecal samples from breast-fed infants were mainly lactobacilli and streptococci; samples from formula-fed infants often contained staphylococci, Escherichia coli, and clostridia.
This study confirms the differences in development of intestinal flora between breast-fed and formula-fed infants.

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