Early Antibiotic Use Disrupts Normal Gut Microbiota Development in Children

January 26, 2016
Amy Jacob

It has long been understood that administering antibiotics to children early on is linked to higher risks of obesity and immune-mediated diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and asthma.

It has long been understood that administering antibiotics to children early on is linked to higher risks of obesity and immune-mediated diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and asthma.

Early-life use of antibiotics has also been found to obstruct normal development of the children’s intestinal microbiota; the broad-spectrum macrolide antibiotics were especially shown to possess adverse effects.

As there has been a lack of information on the long-term effects of antibiotics, Willem de Vos, PhD, University of Helsinki, conducted a study with 142 Finnish children between the ages of two and seven.

de Vos’s primary goal was to investigate how many courses of antibiotics the children had received in their lifetime and how the use of antibiotics impacted their intestinal microbiota.

The research team also assessed the relationship between early antibiotic use and asthma and BMI.

According to the study results, the antibiotics reduced the bacterial species’ richness and slowed the age-driven microbiota development especially in the children who had been administered macrolide antibiotics (azithromycin or clarithromycin).

Katri Korpela, PhD, and the study’s co-author, remarked in a news release, “In general it seems that the gut microbiota recovery from antibiotic treatment lasts more than a year. If a child gets repeated courses of antibiotics during their first years, the microbiota may not have time to fully recover.”

Additinoally, research discovered substantial use of macrolides in the first two years of childhood was linked to higher risks of asthma.

Researchers did find, “Penicillin-type antibiotics seemed to have a weaker impact on the composition and functioning of the microbiome than macrolides,” said Korpela.