I mentioned a few weeks back a review in Nature about a trio of scientists studying the contributions of gut microbial ecology in preemies that get necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Sneaky, sneaky, it turns out that a paper on this work was posted that the review didn't mention or link to. I subsequently found a great article out of the UC Berkeley media relations team that is an even better review of the work, with some excellent quotes from the investigators themselves.
It's a fascinating story. The microbes in preemie feces were collected daily and either sequenced completely or identified by 16S rRNA sequences. The investigators were then able to visualize a time course of the abundance of different microbes (image to upper-right) and to start to understand the contributions of these microbes to pathology, particularly NEC.
It's cool to see the shifts in population as the gut microbes settle in. Interestingly (and not surprising), there were some microbes that are known to be pathogenic, but didn't really affect the preemie's health.
The thought, though, is that there might be some strain specificity within microbe species, or something related to the balance of all the other bacteria. This seems to correlate well with the findings from folks studying the contribution of gut microbes to immune system development.
If you're into developments in human microbial ecology (which I highly recommend new grad students study), I urge you to read this paper (here's the link from the article linked above) and the back story in the article linked above.
What do you think of this?
Image from the paper showing a time course of the gut microbial species