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JGM, Infant, Female, Infant, Newborn, Humans, Infant, Premature, Klebsiella, Enterocolitis, Necrotizing, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S, Microbiota, Infant, Newborn, Diseases, Feces, Fetal Diseases

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Sci Rep. 2023;13(1):7893







This work was supported by funds from the Connecticut Children’s Department of Research (to A.P.M. and M.J.C.) and the Connecticut Children’s Stevenson Fund for Microbiome Research (to A.P.M.).


Intestinal colonization with Klebsiella has been linked to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), but methods of analysis usually failed to discriminate Klebsiella species or strains. A novel ~ 2500-base amplicon (StrainID) that spans the 16S and 23S rRNA genes was used to generate amplicon sequence variant (ASV) fingerprints for Klebsiella oxytoca and Klebsiella pneumoniae species complexes (KoSC and KpSC, respectively) and co-occurring fecal bacterial strains from 10 preterm infants with NEC and 20 matched controls. Complementary approaches were used to identify cytotoxin-producing isolates of KoSC. Klebsiella species colonized most preterm infants, were more prevalent in NEC subjects versus controls, and replaced Escherichia in NEC subjects. Single KoSC or KpSC ASV fingerprinted strains dominated the gut microbiota, suggesting exclusionary Klebsiella competition for luminal resources. Enterococcus faecalis was co-dominant with KoSC but present infrequently with KpSC. Cytotoxin-producing KoSC members were identified in most NEC subjects and were less frequent in controls. Few Klebsiella strains were shared between subjects. We conclude that inter-species Klebsiella competition, within an environment of KoSC and E. faecalis cooperation, appears to be an important factor for the development of NEC. Preterm infants seem to acquire Klebsiella primarily through routes other than patient-to-patient transmission.


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