The neonatal developmental window represents a key time for establishment of the gut microbiota. First contact with these microbes within the infant gastrointestinal tract signifies the start of a critical mutualistic relationship, which is central for short- and longer-term health. Recent research has provided insights into the origin of these microbial pioneers, how they are maintained within the gut environment, and how factors such as antibiotics or preterm birth may disrupt the succession of beneficial microbes. The acquisition, colonisation, and maintenance of the early life microbiota, and subsequent interactions with the host is a rapidly developing research area. In this review we explore some of these key topics which have been illuminated by recent research, and we highlight some of the important unresolved questions which currently limit our overall understanding of the neonatal gut microbiome.
- Preterm infants