Could antibiotic use during infancy cause children to grow up and face more diseases when they are adults? A new study led by Pajau Vangay, of the Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology program, and researchers at the University of Minnesota believe that the changes in the gut bacteria caused by antibiotic use during infancy can cause numerous diseases later in life. This is a major game changer that comes at a time when antibiotics are already under fire from legislators, health organizations, parents trying to live a more natural lifestyle, and even the federal government.
We over use antibiotics – I’ve introduced legislation about this. It is a serious health threat. https://t.co/oTZueZtE1z
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 9, 2015
One-fourth of all medicines prescribed to children are antibiotics, and according to Science Daily, one-third of all antibiotic prescriptions written for American tikes are not even needed. The researchers suggested that a three-way link exists between antibiotics, gut microbes, and health problems like allergies, autoimmune diseases, obesity, and infectious diseases later in life. The findings were published in the science journal Cell Host & Microbe.
Dan Knights, senior author on the study about infants and antibiotics, and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota and computational biologist, said that the findings could explain why metabolic and immune system diseases are increasing so dramatically.
“Previous studies showed links between antibiotic use and unbalanced gut bacteria, and others showed links between unbalanced gut bacteria and adult disease. 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.”
The researchers even offered scenarios through which antibiotics given to infants could lead to diseases in adulthood. Science Daily explains.
“In the case of allergies, for example, the use of antibiotics may eradicate key gut bacteria that help immune cells mature. These cells would have been essential for keeping the immune system at bay when confronted with allergens. Even if these bacteria return, the immune system remains impaired. Related to obesity, antibiotic-induced changes in the gut microbiota resulted in increased levels of short-chain fatty acids that affect metabolism.”
That’s not all the researchers revealed about infants’ gut bacteria. The scientists were also able to show that by examining only the maturity of normal gut bacteria, they could predict an infant’s age within 1.3 months accuracy. Then the researchers suggested that they might be able to develop tests and interventions based on examining microbiome development.
“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. The clinical test we demonstrated would also allow us to think about interventions at an early age.”
The researchers called for further studies into the long term effects on infants when given antibiotics.
“We recommend future studies into the microbiome-mediated effects of antibiotics focused on four types of dysbiosis: loss of keystone taxa, loss of diversity, shifts in metabolic capacity, and blooms of pathogens. Establishment of a large and diverse baseline cohort to define healthy infant microbiome development is essential to advancing diagnosis, interpretation, and eventual treatment of pediatric dysbiosis. This approach will also help provide evidence-based recommendations for antibiotic usage in infancy.”
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