While human milk is the optimal food for infants, formulas that contain ruminant milk can have an important role where breastfeeding is not possible. In this regard, cow milk is most commonly used. However, recent years have brought interest in other ruminant milk. While many similarities exist between ruminant milk, there are likely enough compositional differences to promote different effects in the infant. This may include effects on different bacteria in the large bowel, leading to different metabolites in the gut. In this study sheep and cow milk were digested using an in vitro infant digestive model, followed by fecal fermentation using cultures inoculated with fecal material from two infants of one month and five months of age. The effects of the cow and sheep milk on the fecal microbiota, short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), and other metabolites were investigated. Significant differences in microbial, SCFA, and metabolite composition were observed between fermentation of sheep and cow milk using fecal inoculum from a one-month-old infant, but comparatively minimal differences using fecal inoculum from a five-month-old infant. These results show that sheep milk and cow milk can have differential effects on the gut microbiota, while demonstrating the individuality of the gut microbiome.
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