In humans, the intestinal microbiota aids metabolic and immunological development among other functions. New research suggests that exposure to antibiotic drugs in early life may disrupt the gut microbiome, with potentially far-reaching consequences.
In the study, mice were given amoxicillin (a beta-lactam), tylosin (a macrolide) or alternating courses of the two antibiotics, at doses and frequencies representative of those used in young children. Significantly, antibiotic-treated mice gained more weight and developed larger bones compared with control mice. DNA sequencing revealed that antibiotics disrupted the gut microbiome in terms of composition, diversity and maturation rate; they also altered the relative numbers of microbial genes linked with specific metabolic functions.
“These observations raise the possibility that early-life antibiotic treatment may influence metabolic phenotypes in humans,” say the researchers in
(online, 30 June 2015).