Intestinal microbiota development in the premature neonate: establishment of a lasting commensal relationship?
The gastrointestinal tract of premature infants is a highly fragile organ due to numerous developmental immaturities. Exposure to luminal microbes in the first several weeks of these infants' lives may play a significant role in the development of short-term disease and may have profound effects on long-term health. New non-culture-based techniques are providing exciting new insights into how the intestinal microbiota of premature infants develops and relates to health. A brief summary of recent research in this area is presented, which may be adapted to nutritional strategies for disease prevention.