Antibiotics disrupt gut flora in infants: Recovery still incomplete after 8 weeks

November 9, 2012, American Society for Microbiology

Eight weeks after antibiotic treatment of infants, the diversity of gastrointestinal flora remained diminished, although the number of individual bacteria was back to normal, according to a paper in the November 2012 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Additionally, the potentially disease-causing Proteobacteria were now the dominant population in the treated infants.

"This is the first sequencing-based study to demonstrate the negative effects of short-term antibiotic treatment on the beneficial populations in infants," says coauthor Catherine Stanton of the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Fermoy, Cork, Ireland.

In the study, nine infants were treated with intravenous ampicillin/gentamicin within 48 hours of birth, and over the two month study period, their gastrointestinal flora were compared to that in nine control infants. At four weeks, bacteria from the beneficial genera, the Bifidobacteria and the Lactobacilli, were significantly reduced, and although the numbers bounced back by the study's end, the did not. The researchers used advanced DNA sequencing to identify the species of , and to quantify their numbers, says Stanton.

By altering the gut microbiota, and thus the immune system very early in life, the antibiotics could negatively influence long-term health, particularly by boosting the risk of developing asthma, allergy, and obesity, according to the report. The risk is heightened by the fact that the antibiotic-driven disruption of the comes at a time "when this population is in rapid flux and can easily be unbalanced," according to the report.

These results notwithstanding, because the sequencing data reveal only proportions of species present, rather than absolute numbers, it remains unclear whether the potentially harmful predominate because their population has grown or because the other populations have shrunk, the researchers write. However, the data suggest the former, which jibes with previous research.

"This research suggests that the merits of administering broad spectrum antibiotics—those that kill many bacterial species—in infants should be reassessed, to examine the potential to use more targeted, narrow-spectrum antibiotics, for the shortest period possible," says Stanton.

Explore further: New infant formula ingredients boost babies' immunity by feeding their gut bacteria

More information: F. Fouhy, C.M. Guinane, S. Hussey, R. Wall, C.A. Ryan, E.M. Dempsey, B. Murphy, R.P. Ross, G.F. Fitzgerald, C. Stanton, and P.D. Cotter, 2012. High-throughput sequencing reveals the incomplete, short-term recovery of infant gut microbiota following parenteral antibiotic treatment with ampicillin and gentamicin. Antim. Agents Chemother. 56:5811-5820.

Related Stories

New infant formula ingredients boost babies' immunity by feeding their gut bacteria

February 29, 2012
Adding prebiotic ingredients to infant formula helps colonize the newborn's gut with a stable population of beneficial bacteria, and probiotics enhance immunity in formula-fed infants, two University of Illinois studies report.

Gut flora affects maturation of B cells in infants

May 7, 2012
Infants whose gut is colonised by E. coli bacteria early in life have a higher number of memory B cells in their blood, reveals a study of infants carried out at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Recommended for you

In most surgery patients, length of opioid prescription, number of refills spell highest risk for misuse

January 17, 2018
The possible link between physicians' opioid prescription patterns and subsequent abuse has occupied the attention of a nation in the throes of an opioid crisis looking for ways to stem what experts have dubbed an epidemic. ...

Patients receive most opioids at the doctor's office, not the ER

January 16, 2018
Around the country, state legislatures and hospitals have tightened emergency room prescribing guidelines for opioids to curb the addiction epidemic, but a new USC study shows that approach diverts attention from the main ...

FDA bans use of opioid-containing cough meds by kids

January 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Trying to put a dent in the ongoing opioid addiction crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday slapped strict new restrictions on the use of opioid-containing cold and cough products by kids.

Taking ibuprofen for long periods found to alter human testicular physiology

January 9, 2018
A team of researchers from Denmark and France has found that taking regular doses of the pain reliever ibuprofen over a long period of time can lead to a disorder in men called compensated hypogonadism. In their paper published ...

Nearly one-third of Canadians have used opioids: study

January 9, 2018
Nearly one in three Canadians (29 percent) have used "some form of opioids" in the past five years, according to data released Tuesday as widespread fentanyl overdoses continue to kill.

Growing opioid epidemic forcing more children into foster care

January 8, 2018
The opioid epidemic has become so severe it's considered a national public health emergency. Addiction to prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine, has contributed to a dramatic rise in overdose deaths and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.