A pioneer calf foetus microbiome Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract Foetus sterility until parturition is under debate due to reports of microorganisms in the foetal environment and meconium. Sufficient controls to overcome sample contamination and provide direct evidence of microorganism viability in the pre-rectal gastrointestinal tract (GIT) have been lacking. We conducted molecular and culture-based analyses to investigate the presence of a microbiome in the foetal GIT of calves at 5, 6 and 7 months gestation, while controlling for contamination. The 5 components of the GIT (ruminal fluid, ruminal tissue, caecal fluid, caecal tissue and meconium) and amniotic fluid were found to contain a pioneer microbiome of distinct bacterial and archaeal communities. Bacterial and archaeal richness varied between GIT components. The dominant bacterial phyla in amniotic fluid differed to those in ruminal and caecal fluids and meconium. The lowest bacterial and archaeal abundances were associated with ruminal tissues. Viable bacteria unique to the ruminal fluids, which were not found in the controls from 5, 6 and 7 months gestation, were cultured, subcultured, sequenced and identified. We report that the foetal GIT is not sterile but is spatially colonised before birth by a pioneer microbiome.

publication date

  • December 1, 2020