Source of human milk (mother or donor) is more important than fortifier type (human or bovine) in shaping the preterm infant microbiome.

Cell reports. Medicine. 2022;3(9):100712
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While human milk provides optimal nutrition for full-term infants, its nutrient density is inadequate for those born preterm. Formula made from bovine milk can provide higher levels of energy and protein but lacks many of the bioactive components found in human milk, including the ‘‘personalised’’ components found only in the mother’s own milk (MOM). The aim of this study was to compare the effects of bovine-derived human milk fortifiers (BHMF) versus human-derived human milk fortifiers (H2MF) on gut microbiome development, oxidative stress, and gut inflammation in human-milk-fed very low birth weight preterm neonates. This study was a randomised controlled trial. Very low birth weight infants were recruited into the study and randomised to receive standard BHMF or H2MF during the intervention period. Results showed that the type of milk fortifier (bovine versus human) had minimal impact on the gut microbiome, whereas the source of human milk (mother versus donor) was strongly associated with microbiome composition. Authors conclude that their findings do not provide a clear biological basis for the clinical impact of H2MF but emphasise the importance of mothers using their own milk to feed their preterm infants.


Milk fortifiers help meet the nutritional needs of preterm infants receiving their mother's own milk (MOM) or donor human milk. We conducted a randomized clinical trial (NCT03214822) in 30 very low birth weight premature neonates comparing bovine-derived human milk fortifier (BHMF) versus human-derived fortifier (H2MF). We found that fortifier type does not affect the overall microbiome, although H2MF infants were less often colonized by an unclassified member of Clostridiales Family XI. Secondary analyses show that MOM intake is strongly associated with weight gain and microbiota composition, including Bifidobacterium, Veillonella, and Propionibacterium enrichment. Finally, we show that while oxidative stress (urinary F2-isoprostanes) is not affected by fortifier type or MOM intake, fecal calprotectin is higher in H2MF infants and lower in those consuming more MOM. Overall, the source of human milk (mother versus donor) appears more important than the type of milk fortifier (human versus bovine) in shaping preterm infant gut microbiota.

Lifestyle medicine

Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Gut microbiome
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients ; Microorganisms
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Stool

Methodological quality

Jadad score : 3
Allocation concealment : Yes