The Stool Volatile Metabolome of Pre-Term Babies

Alessandra Frau*, Lauren Lett, Rachael Slater, Gregory R. Young, Christopher J. Stewart, Janet Berrington, David M. Hughes, Nicholas Embleton, Chris Probert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


The fecal metabolome in early life has seldom been studied. We investigated its evolution in pre-term babies during their first weeks of life. Multiple (n = 152) stool samples were studied from 51 babies, all 32 weeks gestation. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were analyzed by headspace solid phase microextraction gas chromatography mass spectrometry. Data were interpreted using Automated Mass Spectral Deconvolution System (AMDIS) with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reference library. Statistical analysis was based on linear mixed modelling, the number of VOCs increased over time; a rise was mainly observed between day 5 and day 10. The shift at day 5 was associated with products of branched-chain fatty acids. Prior to this, the metabolome was dominated by aldehydes and acetic acid. Caesarean delivery showed a modest association with molecules of fungal origin. This study shows how the metabolome changes in early life in pre-term babies. The shift in the metabolome 5 days after delivery coincides with the establishment of enteral feeding and the transition from meconium to feces. Great diversity of metabolites was associated with being fed greater volumes of milk.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3341
Number of pages11
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2021


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