Diet and Microbial Impact

The intricate relationship between diet and the early life microbiota plays a key role in host health. Our research projects are dedicated to unravelling the mechanisms that drive interactions between diet and Bifidobacterium, a key beneficial microbe. Through these investigations, we aim to shed light on the complex processes that govern the interplay between dietary components and microbial communities in early life.

Our research delves into the intricate relationship between early life feeding and early life microbiota. Breast-fed infants exhibit high levels of Bifidobacterium species and strains, whereas formula-fed infants show a marked reduction in these beneficial microbes. The presence of bifidobacteria at birth, extending into early life, significantly shapes the broader bacterial ecosystem, fostering a ‘healthy’ microbiota that can persist into adulthood. Utilising both in vitro and in vivo systems, we aim to unravel the key genetic and metabolic signatures underpinning this process, including across global infant populations. Our ultimate goal is to develop advanced formulas and diet strategies that closely emulates maternal milk, conferring the health benefits associated with breast-feeding.

Additionally, we adopt a global genomics approach to explore the evolutionary processes between bifidobacteria and diet. Employing a combination of wet and dry lab techniques, we seek to understand how distinct Bifidobacteriumspecies and strains have evolved to digest various dietary components, including those found in breast milk, such as human milk oligosaccharides, as well as plant and bacterial polysaccharides. As part of these investigations, we isolate and characterise Bifidobacterium strains from diverse hosts, spanning both humans and animals.