Giving Infants Antibiotics May Spur Disease in Adulthood


Infant antibiotic use may be linked with disease later in life.

Infant antibiotic use may be linked with disease later in life.

New research published in Cell Host and Microbe explored the association between children’s antibiotic use and dysbiosis. Such imbalance in the gut microbiome may lead to adverse conditions such as atopic disorders.

“Previous studies showed links between antibiotic use and unbalanced gut bacteria, and others showed links between unbalanced gut bacteria and adult disease,” said senior author Dan Knights, a computational biologist and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, in a press release. “Over the past year, we synthesized hundreds of studies and found evidence of strong correlations between antibiotic use, changes in gut bacteria, and disease in adulthood.”

More specifically, the researchers found relationships among antibiotics, dysbiosis, and diseases such as obesity, allergies, and atopic disorders.

Antibiotics are the most common medications prescribed for children, and they may be administered unnecessarily to children 33% to 50% of the time, according to some estimates. The researchers noted in their study this unnecessary antibiotic use exacerbates the problem of antimicrobial resistance.

An individual’s genes may increase susceptibility to autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, and the gut microbiome can mediate these diseases. As antibiotics fight off bacteria, the altered composition of bacteria in the body may lead to adverse effects.

One of the 4 types of dysbiosis the researchers examined was metabolic capacity. When studying the link between antibiotic use and obesity, they found antibiotics can induce certain imbalances in the gut microbiota that may lead to greater short-chain fatty acids, which can affect an individual’s metabolism.

In addition, the researchers posited antibiotics could destroy certain gut bacteria in a child’s system that would have boosted their immune system when the child is faced with allergens.

“We think these findings help develop a roadmap for future research to determine the health consequences of antibiotic use and for recommendations for prescribing them,” Knights said in a press release.

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