-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Jan. 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Gut bacteria in
premature infants don't come from their mothers, but from microbes
in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), a new study finds.
Babies typically get their gut bacteria from their mothers
during childbirth. Premature infants, however, receive antibiotics
during their first week of life to prevent infections, and these
antibiotics eliminate many of the microbes the infants receive from
As a result, microbes from the NICU colonize the digestive
tracts of premature infants, the University of California,
Berkeley, researchers found.
The researchers swabbed the most-touched surfaces in an NICU and
collected fecal samples from two premature infants in the unit. The
surfaces checked for microbes included the sink; feeding and
breathing tubes; the hands of health workers and parents; incubator
access knobs; and keyboards, cell phones and other electronic
equipment at the nurses' station.
The researchers found that the gut bacteria in the two infants
were similar to those found on the surfaces in the intensive-care
unit. The most abundant types of gut bacteria in the infants were
similar to those found on feeding and breathing tubes.
The study was published recently in the journal
"The most common species found in our study -- Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Escherichia coliand Bacteroides fragilis-- all have been associated with disease in preterm infants, but can also be commonly isolated from healthy infants and adults," study author Brandon Brooks said in a journal news release.
"The strains found here are largely opportunistic, lacking many of the really nasty genes found in 'outbreak' versions of their respective strains," Brooks said. "The bacteria would need to be further tested to fully understand [any potential threat]."
Both infants in the study were healthy when they left the
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about
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