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The Role of Bifidobacteria in HMOs Utilization and Systematic Immune Upregulation

Written by
Dr Fathalla Ali, PHD Paediatrics


It is believed that early colonization with diverse gut microbiota is important for the development of the immune system, particularly during the first 3 months of life. Among the most abundant members of the gut microbiota that colonize the gut of infants during early days of life are Bifidobacteria, which are believed to play a major role in the development of the immune system. However, the mechanisms by which the Bifidobacteria contribute to the development of a strong immune system have not been fully understood. In a randomized control trial at the Karolinska institute, researchers investigated the association between Bifidobacteria, their metabolites and immunoregulation during the first few months of life. In this study, exclusively breastfed full-term infants were randomized (n=20) to receive Bifidobacterium longum (subsp) infantis EVC001 daily for 21 days starting at day 7 or to receive breast milk alone (n = 20). Infants were followed up until they reached the age of 2 months. Fecal samples and blood samples from both groups (randomized and control) were collected on day 6 , 40 and 60 postnatal and analyzed for cytokine concentrations, non-targeted fecal metabolomics and metagenomics. Findings from this study showed that:

  • A systematic and intestinal inflammation and systematic immune dysregulation were observed in infants not colonized or under colonized with Bifidobacteria during the first months of life.
  • The Human Milk oligosaccharides utilization genes (HMO-utilization genes) were detected in infants received B.longum subsp. infantis EVC001.
  • Less inflammation in the gut and blood was observed in infants whose gut microbiota was able to break down HMOs.
  • Low pro-inflammatory markers were observed in infants who received B.longum subsp. infantis EVC001 as a result of HMOs utilization.

In conclusion, data from this study identified the key factors that correlate between the early colonization with Bifidobacterium species and decreased the incidence of immune-mediated diseases. Additionally, the results highlight the importance of early supplementation with beneficial bacteria during the first month of life.

Keywords: Bifidobacteria, Inflammation, pro-inflammatory, immune system.


Henrick, B. M., Rodriguez, L., Lakshmikanth, T., Pou, C., Henckel, E., Arzoomand, A., Olin, A., Wang, J., Mikes, J., Tan, Z., Chen, Y., Ehrlich, A. M., Bernhardsson, A. K., Mugabo, C. H., Ambrosiani, Y., Gustafsson, A., Chew, S., Brown, H. K., Prambs, J., Bohlin, K., … Brodin, P. (2021). Bifidobacteria-mediated immune system imprinting early in life. Cell, S0092-8674(21)00660-7. Click here

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