Beneficial microbes

Determination of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in breast milk of healthy women by digital PCR.

PMID 27241905


Breast milk is one of the most important sources of postnatal microbes. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) is currently used for the quantitative analysis of bacterial 16S rRNA genes in breast milk. However, this method relies on the use of standard curves and is imprecise when quantitating target DNA of low abundance. In contrast, droplet digital PCR (DD-PCR) provides an absolute quantitation without the need for calibration curves. A comparison between DD-PCR and qRT-PCR was conducted for the quantitation of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus 16S RNA genes in human breast milk, and the impacts of selected maternal factors were studied on the composition of these two bacteria in breast milk. From this study, DD-PCR reported between 0-34,460 16S rRNA gene copies of Bifidobacterium genera and between 1,108-634,000 16S rRNA gene copies of Lactobacillus genera in 1 ml breast milk. The 16S rRNA gene copy number of Lactobacillus genera was much greater than that of Bifidobacterium genera in breast milk. DD-PCR showed a 10-fold lower limit of quantitation as compared to qRT-PCR. A higher correlation and agreement was observed between qRT-PCR and DD-PCR in Lactobacillus quantitation as compared to Bifidobacterium quantitation. Based on our DD-PCR quantitation, a low abundance of Bifidobacterium bacteria in breast milk was correlated to higher pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). However, no significant difference was observed for these two bacteria in breast milk between mothers who had vaginal deliveries and caesarean deliveries. This study suggests that DD-PCR is a better tool to quantitate the bacterial load of breast milk compared to the conventional qRT-PCR method. The number of breast milk Bifidobacterium bacteria is influenced by maternal pre-pregnancy BMI.