Longitudinal Analysis of the Intestinal Microbiota among a Cohort of Children in Rural and Urban Areas of Pakistan

Veeraraghavan Balaji, Duy M. Dinh, Anne V. Kane, Sajid Soofi, Imran Ahmed, Arjumand Rizvi, Meera Chatterjee, Sudhir Babji, Joanne Duara, Joy Moy, Elena N. Naumova, Christine A. Wanke, Honorine D. Ward, Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The profile of the intestinal microbiota is known to be altered in malnourished young children in low- and middle-income countries. However, there are limited studies longitudinally evaluating the intestinal microbiota in malnourished young children in resource-limited settings over the first two years of life. In this longitudinal pilot study, we determined the effect of age, residential location, and intervention on the composition, relative abundance, and diversity of the intestinal microbiota in a representative sample of children under 24 months of age with no diarrhea in the preceding 72 h in the urban and rural areas of Sindh, Pakistan nested within a cluster-randomized trial evaluating the effect of zinc and micronutrients on growth and morbidity (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00705445). The major findings were age-related with significant changes in alpha and beta diversity with increasing age. There was a significant increase in the relative abundance of the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes phyla and a significant decrease in that of the Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria phyla (p < 0.0001). There were significant increases in the relative abundances of the major genera Bifidobacterium, Escherichia/Shigella and Streptococcus (p < 0.0001), and no significant change in the relative abundance of Lactobacillus. Using the LEfSE algorithm, differentially abundant taxa were identified between children in the first and second years of age, between those residing in rural and urban areas, and those who received different interventions at different ages from 3 to 24 months. The numbers of malnourished (underweight, wasted, stunted) or well-nourished children at each age, in each intervention arm, and at urban or rural sites were too small to determine if there were significant differences in alpha or beta diversity or differentially abundant taxa among them. Further longitudinal studies with larger numbers of well-nourished and malnourished children are required to fully characterize the intestinal microbiota of children in this region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1213
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Pakistan
  • gut
  • intestinal
  • malnutrition
  • microbiota


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