Using PacBio Long-Read High-Throughput Microbial Gene Amplicon Sequencing To Evaluate Infant Formula Safety

Infant formula (IF) requires a strict microbiological standard because of the high vulnerability of infants to foodborne diseases. The current study used the PacBio single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing platform to generate full-length 16S rRNA-based bacterial microbiota profiles of 30 Chinese domestic and imported IF samples. A total of 600 species were identified, dominated by Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactococcus lactis, and Lactococcus piscium. Distinctive bacterial profiles were observed between the two sample groups, as confirmed with both principal coordinate analysis and multivariate analysis of variance. Moreover, the product whey protein nitrogen index (WPNI), representing the degree of preheating, negatively correlated with the relative abundances of the Bacillus genus. This study has demonstrated the application of the PacBio SMRT sequencing platform in assessing the bacterial contamination of IF products, which is of interest to the dairy industry for effective monitoring of microbial quality and safety during production.