Researchers connect lower antibiotic resistance with higher levels of bifidobacteria in infant gut

September 26, 2018, American Society for Microbiology
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A study published this week in mSphere suggests that infants, who are vulnerable to an array of infectious diseases, may have a microbial ally in keeping antibiotic-resistant infections at bay. Researchers found that children with higher gut levels of Bifidobacterium, a common commensal, had reduced abundance and lower frequency of the genes associated with antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The study is the first to analyze the relationship between Bifidobacterium and AMR. The findings suggest that colonization by the microbe can help guard the infant intestine by producing acids and preventing colonization by other, potentially AMR-related bacteria, says microbiologist and study leader Diana Taft at the University of California, Davis.

Every year, AMR contributes to the deaths of more than 23,000 people and the illnesses of 2 million in the United States. AMR looms as a public health crisis, and the genes responsible for AMR can appear early in life.

"It's the gatekeeper," says Taft, of Bifidobacterium.

Nursing promotes the growth of the microbes, which thrive on carbohydrates like the oligosaccharides in breast milk. While a child is breastfeeding, some species can dominate the infant intestine.

"Bifidobacterium can be very dominant as long as an infant is breastfed, and then bacterial levels drop off during weaning," says Taft.

Previous studies have found that children in middle- and lower-income countries, where children often nurse for two years or more, have of Bifidobacterium than children in developed countries like Finland or Sweden, where children often stop nursing by one year of age.

Taft and her collaborators use metagenomic sequencing to analyze 31 stool samples collected at a few weeks of age from infants in Bangladesh, as well as 15 samples from the same population collected when the were two years old. In the early-life group, the researchers found fewer genes associated with AMR in samples with higher levels of Bifidobacterium (more than 65 percent relative abundance) than they did in samples with lower levels (less than 20 percent relative abundance).

They also reported that by age two—when most children have weaned—levels of AMR were about the same, regardless of Bifidobacterium level.

"As soon as you drop the bifidobacteria away with weaning, other bugs sort of take up that space, but they're not necessarily the ones high in AMR," says microbiologist David Mills, also at the University of California, Davis, and senior author on the paper. Taft is a postdoctoral researcher in Mills' lab.

Mills notes that many are treated with antibiotics like penicillin in the first year or two of life, but that those treatments may at the same time increase their AMR. The new findings suggest that maintaining high levels of bifidobacteria, either naturally or via probiotic supplementation, may help reduce levels of AMR-related genes.

"They're gaining protection in this early life window," says Taft.

The current study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that the early-life microbiome can play an important role a person's health for their entire life, Mills says. "We're in this situation right now where we know they're linked, but we don't fully understand what a healthy adult microbiome looks like," he says.

Explore further: Probiotic gets a boost from breast milk

Related Stories

Probiotic gets a boost from breast milk

December 6, 2017
Supplementation with probiotics can improve a person's gut health, but the benefits are often fleeting, and colonization by the probiotic's good microbes usually doesn't last. Breast milk may help sustain those colonies in ...

Bifidobacteria supplement colonizes gut of breastfed infants

June 10, 2018
Supplementing breastfed infants with activated Bifidobacterium infantis (B. infantis) bacteria had a positive impact on babies' gut microbes for up to a year, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of ...

What you eat while pregnant may affect your baby's gut

July 4, 2018
A mother's diet during pregnancy may have an effect on the composition of her baby's gut microbiome—the community of bacteria living in the gut—and the effect may vary by delivery mode, according to study published in ...

A mother's genes can influence the bacteria in her baby's gut

April 9, 2015
Researchers at UC Davis have found that a gene, which is not active in some mothers, produces a breast milk sugar that influences the development of the community of gut bacteria in her infant. The sugars produced by these ...

Study reveals impact of antibiotic treatment, other factors on the infant gut microbiome

June 15, 2016
A comprehensive analysis of changes in the intestinal microbial population during the first three years of life has revealed some of the impacts of factors such as mode of birth - vaginal versus cesarean section - and antibiotic ...

Recommended for you

Siblings of children with autism or ADHD are at elevated risk for both disorders

December 10, 2018
Later-born siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at elevated risk for both disorders, a new study led by Meghan Miller, assistant professor in the ...

RSV study reveals age when infants are most vulnerable to asthma

December 5, 2018
New research suggests a maternal vaccination against RSV should be augmented with active immunisation in a child's first two years to reduce the onset of asthma.

The powerful impact of real-world learning experiences for kids

December 4, 2018
Real-world learning experiences, like summer camps, can significantly improve children's knowledge in a matter of just days, a new study suggests.

Mediterranean diet during pregnancy associated with lower risk of accelerated growth

December 4, 2018
The Mediterranean diet is characterised by a high content of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes and nuts. This healthy diet pattern has been associated with lower obesity and cardiometabolic risk in adults, but few studies ...

Global review reports on administration of children's antibiotics

December 4, 2018
Researchers analyzing the sales of oral antibiotics for children in 70 high- and middle-income countries found that consumption varies widely from country to country with little correlation between countries' wealth and the ...

New review highlights importance of good sleep routines for children

December 3, 2018
Sleep hygiene, which includes practices like providing a cool and quiet sleeping environment or reading before bed time to help kids unwind, is increasingly popular among parents looking to ensure their children get a good ...

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.