Different developmental stages of the microbiota can be distinguished. The different developmental stages define the age of microbiota of a human being. Every increase or decrease in the microbiota age compared with the actual chronological age of a child can indicate various outcomes.
After the first microbes colonize the human body, the microbiota start to develop, over the next few years, depending on environmental factors, like food intake. First change will happen during weaning, which starts a non random process of maturation, induced by the change of the nutrient consumption. During the first phase of milk consumption we have Bifidobacteria as a dominant member of microbiome. Upon weaning, members of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes become dominant. Microbiota reaches adult stage in 3–6 years, being fully maturated after puberty. Main markers of bacterial adulthood are already present at toddlers. The microbiota of formula fed babies is more mature compared to a breastfed child. The maturation of microbiota also happen faster at c-section born babies.
Maturation of the microbiota is directed by nutrition. Malnutrition in early stages of life can result in irreversible stunted growth and impaired cognitive ability. The microbiota of malnourished children does not mature fully. But a food intervention rescuing children from malnutrition will immediately mature the microbiota. The potential relationship between infant malnutrition and gut microbiota might contribute to food and microbial based therapies for malnourished people. Microbiota -modulation strategies could help restore infant growth and developmental problems. Increase or decrease of microbiota age in comparison with chronological age of the child can be used to find different health outcomes. Immature microbiota is associated with malnutrition, while faster maturation is associated with formula feeding and c-section birth. Because of all these reasons, microbiota-modulation can be the next-step strategy supporting personalized nutrition and microbiota based strategies.