Perinatal factors impact gut microbiota development in early life, however, little is known on the effects of these factors on microbes in later life. Here we sequence DNA from faecal samples of children over the first four years and reveal a perpetual evolution of the gut microbiota during this period. The significant impact of gestational age at birth and delivery mode on gut microbiota progression is evident in the first four years of life, while no measurable effects of antibiotics are found in the first year. Microbiota profiles are also characteristic in children dependant on gestational age and maturity. Full term delivery is characterised by Bacteroides (year one), Parabacteroides (year two) and Christensenellaceae (year four). Preterm delivery is characterised by Lactobacillus (year one), Streptococcus (year two) and Carnobacterium (year four). This study reveals that the gut retains distinct microbial profiles of perinatal factors up to four years of age.
Early life microbiome is affected by factors such as mode of delivery, gestational age at birth and feeding regime. Here, the authors show that gestational age at birth still imprints on the microbiome at four years of age, suggesting a link between altered microbiome in prematurity and long term health implications.