Three studies published in the journal Gut over the past 5 years describe how the gut microbiome of African infants is affected not only by dietary iron but also by the combination of iron with antibiotics – a widely prescribed medication in developing countries. These studies involved collaborations between researchers from Switzerland,1 Kenya2, South Africa3 and the Netherlands4.
In summary, these three studies highlight how dietary iron can be detrimental to the infant gut microbiome and why even a low dose of iron may reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics in this vulnerable group of patients. They also show how some of these problems may be addressed by giving infants a safer iron formulation by adding a prebiotic. Such solutions will undoubtedly be the topic of future studies, which will continue to make use of state of the art next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics methods for profiling of bacterial DNA in faecal samples. The three studies described here, exemplify the use of such techniques and future analyses with shotgun metagenomic sequencing will provide higher-resolution analysis of complex microbiome samples, including insight in microbial gene functions and strain-level identification of microbes.