Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Making sense of maternal mammary metagenomics

Breastfeeding symbol Breastfeeding. Image via Topinambour.

This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, Sarah Hird digs into a new study of the bacterial diversity in human breast milk.

Cabrera-Rubio et al. (2012) analyzed the bacterial composition of HBM [human breast milk] from 18 women at three time points over 6 months. The mothers in the study varied in weight and delivery method. The researchers were basically exploring what factors influence the microbial composition in breast milk, with an emphasis on weight of the mother. They used next-generation sequencing to produce a library of sequences that were analyzed for what specific bacteria were found in each sample and how the samples relate to one another as whole communities.

Some of the factors that turned out to influence bacterial diversity in HBM are pretty surprising — to find out what they are, go read the whole thing.◼