Maternal fecal microbiome predicts gestational age, birth weight and neonatal growth in rural Zimbabwe.

Ethan K. Gough, Thaddeus J. Edens, Hyun Min Geum, Iman Baharmand, Sandeep K. Gill, Ruairi C. Robertson, Kuda Mutasa, Robert Ntozini, Laura E. Smith, Bernard Chasekwa, Florence D. Majo, Naume V. Tavengwa, Batsirai Mutasa, Freddy Francis, Lynnea Carr, Joice Tome, Rebecca J. Stoltzfus, Lawrence H. Moulton, Andrew J. Prendergast, Jean H. HumphreyAmee R. Manges, SHINE Trial Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Preterm birth and low birth weight (LBW) affect one in ten and one in seven livebirths, respectively, primarily in low-income and middle-income countries (LMIC) and are major predictors of poor child health outcomes. However, both have been recalcitrant to public health intervention. The maternal intestinal microbiome may undergo substantial changes during pregnancy and may influence fetal and neonatal health in LMIC populations. Methods: Within a subgroup of 207 mothers and infants enrolled in the SHINE trial in rural Zimbabwe, we performed shotgun metagenomics on 351 fecal specimens provided during pregnancy and at 1-month post-partum to investigate the relationship between the pregnancy gut microbiome and infant gestational age, birth weight, 1-month length-, and weight-for-age z-scores using extreme gradient boosting machines. Findings: Pregnancy gut microbiome taxa and metabolic functions predicted birth weight and WAZ at 1 month more accurately than gestational age and LAZ. Blastoscystis sp, Brachyspira sp and Treponeme carriage were high compared to Western populations. Resistant starch-degraders were important predictors of birth outcomes. Microbiome capacity for environmental sensing, vitamin B metabolism, and signalling predicted increased infant birth weight and neonatal growth; while functions involved in biofilm formation in response to nutrient starvation predicted reduced birth weight and growth. Interpretation: The pregnancy gut microbiome in rural Zimbabwe is characterized by resistant starch-degraders and may be an important metabolic target to improve birth weight. Funding: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development, Wellcome Trust, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, US National Institutes of Health, and UNICEF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103421
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • birth weight
  • gestation
  • maternal
  • metagenome
  • microbiome
  • pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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