The faecal flora of 46 preterm infants and 52 born at full term was studied at 10 days of age; 46 born at full term and 37 preterm infants were also studied at 30 days. Viable counts of coliforms, lactobacilli, and bifidobacteria were made; gas liquid chromatography was used to identify the anaerobes. Lactobacilli, but not bifidobacteria, were found in high counts in the stools of most of the infants born at full term by 30 days of age. The mode of delivery, but not the method of feeding, had a significant influence on early colonisation. A selective deficiency of lactobacilli compared with coliform organisms was found in preterm infants. Previous treatment with antibiotics and being nursed in an incubator were also significantly associated with a lower rate of early colonisation with lactobacilli. Our findings indicate that lactobacilli may be an important part of the normal stool flora in early infancy, and that modern methods of neonatal care are associated with delayed or deficient colonisation.
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