Antibiotics Given To Babies May Have Long-Term Adverse Effects on Gut Function

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Preterm or low birth-weight babies are given routine antibiotics for the prevention of high-risk infections. A study published in The Journal of Physiology found that exposing babies to antibiotics has long-lasting effects on their enteric nervous system, microbiota, and gut function. Hence, it is possible that babies who are given antibiotics may develop gastrointestinal problems as adults.

The research team at the Department of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Melbourne made this discovery. They are the first ones to demonstrate the long-lasting effects of antibiotics on neonatal mice, resulting in distributed gastrointestinal function. Furthermore, they also revealed the speed of motility through the gut and diarrhoea-like symptoms in adults.

Lab Trial – Sex Dependant Changes Of The Gut

A dose of vancomycin was given to the lab rats for the first ten days of their lives. After which, they were reared normally till they were young adults. Moreover, their gut tissue was observed for measuring the gut function, structure, microbiota, and nervous system. Additionally, the researchers also found the changes to be dependent on the sex of the mice. The male mice had lower faecal weight and the females had a long whole gut transition. However, both the male and females had greater faecal content, which means diarrhoea-like symptoms.

Similarities Between Mice and Humans

Mice are very similar to humans. However, their guts are more immature compared to humans. Moreover, their guts grow at an accelerated rate because of their shorter life span. Their nervous system and gut microbial are more complex than humans, hence their findings cannot be a direct correlation with human infants and children.

The researchers aim to do further research on the mechanisms of antibiotics in the gut. Furthermore, they will also study the sex-specific actions to know if early-life antibiotics prescription has any effect on metabolism and brain function.

Psychologist Jamie Foong said,

We are very excited about the findings of our study which show that antibiotics given after birth could have prolonged effects on the enteric nervous system. This provides further evidence of the importance of microbiota on gut health and could introduce new targets to advance antibiotic treatment to very young children.


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