Common bean and cowpea contain about 25% protein and 25% fiber, and are recommended as complementary foods in sub-Saharan Africa. Objective: The objective of this study was to determine if a daily legume supplement given to Malawian infants aged 6 to 12 mo alters the 16S configuration of the fecal microbiota as read out by amplicon sequence variants (ASVs). Methods: This study was conducted within the context of a randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial to assess whether cowpea or common bean supplementation reduced intestinal permeability or increased linear growth. There were 2 village clusters in which the study was conducted. Fresh stool collections were flash frozen from 236 infants at ≤6 time points. The stools were sequenced using Earth Microbiome project protocols and data were processed using Qiime and Qiita, open-source, validated software packages. α-diversity was measured using the Faith's test. The 16S configuration was characterized by determining the weighted UniFrac distances of the ASVs and comparing them using permutational multivariate ANOVA. Results: Among the 1249 samples analyzed, the α-diversity of the fecal microbiome was unchanged among subjects after initiation of legume supplementation. Neither cowpea nor common bean altered the overall 16S configuration at any age. The 16S configuration differed between children with adequate and poor linear growth aged from 6 to 9 mo, but no specific ASVs differed in relative abundance. The 16S configuration differed between children with normal and abnormal intestinal permeability at 9 mo, but no specific ASVs differed in relative abundance. Among categorical characteristics of the population associated with different 16S configurations, village cluster was most pronounced. Conclusion: Legume supplementation in breastfed, rural African infants did not affect the structure of the gut microbial communities until the children were aged 9 mo. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02472262.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)884-892
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • African infants
  • Lactobacillus mucosae
  • Veillonella spp
  • cowpea
  • fecal microbiota
  • legumes


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