Propionic Acidemia (PA) is a rare inherited metabolic disorder caused by the enzymatic block of propionyl-CoA carboxylase with the consequent accumulation of propionic acid, which is toxic for the brain and cardiac cells. Since a considerable amount of propionate is produced by intestinal bacteria, interest arose in the attempt to reduce propionate-producing bacteria through a monthly antibiotic treatment of metronidazole. In the present study, we investigated the gut microbiota structure of an infant diagnosed at 4 days of life through Expanded Newborn Screening (NBS) and treated the child following international guidelines with a special low-protein diet, specific medications and strict biochemical monitoring. Microbiota composition was assessed during the first month of life, and the presence of Bacteroides fragilis, known to be associated with propionate production, was effectively decreased by metronidazole treatment. After five antibiotic therapy cycles, at 4 months of age, the infant was supplemented with a daily mixture of three bifidobacterial strains, known not to be propionate producers. The supplementation increased the population of bifidobacteria, with Bifidobacterium breve as the dominating species; Ruminococcus gnavus, an acetate and formate producer, was also identified. Metabarcoding analysis, compared with low coverage whole metagenome sequencing, proved to capture all the microbial biodiversity and could be the elected tool for fast and cost-effective monitoring protocols to be implemented in the follow up of rare metabolic disorders such as PA. Data obtained could be a possible starting point to set up tailored microbiota modification treatment studies in the attempt to improve the quality of life of people affected by propionic acidemia.
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