Development of the human mycobiome over the first month of life and across body sites

Tonya L. Ward, Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, Tim Heisel, Gabriel Al-Ghalith, Dan Knights, Cheryl A. Gale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


With the advent of next-generation sequencing and microbial community characterization, we are beginning to understand the key factors that shape early-life microbial colonization and associated health outcomes. Studies characterizing infant microbial colonization have focused mostly on bacteria in the microbiome and have largely neglected fungi (the mycobiome), despite their relevance to mucosal infections in healthy infants. In this pilot study, we characterized the skin, oral, and anal mycobiomes of infants over the first month of life (n = 17) and the anal and vaginal mycobiomes of mothers (n = 16) by internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) amplicon sequencing. We found that infant mycobiomes differed by body site, with the infant mycobiomes at the anal sites being different from those at the skin and oral sites. The relative abundances of body site-specific taxa differed by birth mode, with significantly more Candida albicans fungi present on the skin of vaginally born infants on day 30 and significantly more Candida orthopsilosis fungi present in the oral cavity of caesarean section-born infants throughout the first month of life. We found the mycobiomes within individual infants to be variable over the first month of life, and vaginal birth did not result in infant mycobiomes that were more similar to the mother's vaginal mycobiome. Therefore, although vertical transmission of specific fungal isolates from mother to infant has been reported, it is likely that other sources (environment, other caregivers) also contribute to early-life mycobiome establishment. Thus, future longitudinal studies of mycobiome and bacterial microbiome codevelopment, with dense sampling from birth to beyond the first month of life, are warranted. IMPORTANCE Humans are colonized by diverse fungi (mycobiome), which have received much less study to date than colonizing bacteria. We know very little about the succession of fungal colonization in early life and whether it may relate to longterm health. To better understand fungal colonization and its sources, we studied the skin, oral, and anal mycobiomes of healthy term infants and the vaginal and anal mycobiomes of their mothers. Generally, infants were colonized by few fungal taxa, and fungal alpha diversity did not increase over the first month of life. There was no clear community maturation over the first month of life, regardless of body site. Key body-site-specific taxa, but not overall fungal community structures, were impacted by birth mode. Thus, additional studies to characterize mycobiome acquisition and succession throughout early life are needed to form a foundation for research into the relationship between mycobiome development and human disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00140-17
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Ward et al.


  • Fungi
  • ITS2
  • Infant
  • Microbiome
  • Mycobiome


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