According to a study published in Genome Medicine, the disruption of gut bacteria through the use of antibiotics soon after birth has the ability to affect the immune system’s process of maturation. Researchers found that short, single courses of antibiotics can predispose young animals to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) later in life.1,2

The results of the study support prior research demonstrating that the use of antibiotics in children under 1 year old hinders the development of the intestinal microbiota. Microbiota consist of trillions of microorganisms that exist in and on our bodies and support its processes. The existence of these microorganisms remains critical to the healthy maturation of the immune system and the prevention of diseases, such as IBD and type 1 diabetes.1,2

"This study provides experimental evidence strengthening the idea that the associations of antibiotic exposures to the later development of disease in human children are more than correlations, but that they are actually playing roles in the disease causation," said the study’s co-author Martin Blaser, director of the Rutgers Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, in a press release.2

In order to assess the potential for disease risk posed by the disruption of the gut microbiome by antibiotics, the researchers studied the effects of dextran sulfate sodium, a chemical that injures the colon, in mice.1,2

The researchers tested the mice by giving 1 group antibiotics and observing another group that had perturbed microbial contents transplanted into their intestines. The researchers assessed the results in contrast with the control group.1,2

The results demonstrated that the mice that received either the antibiotics or the antibiotic-perturbed microbiome had significantly worse colitis. The researchers explained that this showed how the exposure to antibiotics changed the microbiome, altered immune response in the colon, and worsened the experimental colitis.1,2

"The use of a well-validated model of colitis enabled us to study the effects of prior antibiotic exposures on the development of an important disease process," said lead author Ceren Ozkul, a visiting scholar from the Department of Pharmaceutical Microbiology, Hacettepe University in Turkey, in a press release.2

The study was a continuation of Blaser's work testing his hypothesis that disrupting the microbiome in early life, especially through antibiotics and C-section, is a factor driving modern epidemics.2

  1. Ozkul C, Ruiz V, Battaglia T, et al. A single early-in-life antibiotic course increases susceptibility to DSS-induced colitis. Genome Medicine. 2020;12:65. doi: 10.1186/s13073-020-00764-z.
  2. Antibiotics use early in life increases risk of inflammatory bowel disease later in life. Rutgers University; July 28, 2020. Accessed July 30, 2020.