Antibiotic Use in Children May Have Long-Lasting Impact the Microbiome

For many years, doctors have been warning about the risks posed by the unnecessary use of antibiotics. Not only are antibiotics completely ineffective against many common viral infections that cause sore throats, colds, and earaches--they can also cause unwanted side effects and lead to antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”  Earlier this year, a group of Finnish researchers published a study suggesting one more reason to be wary of unnecessary antibiotics: the use of antibiotics in children might be associated with the disruption of the development of a healthy gut microbiome.

A healthy human digestive system contains thousands upon thousands of different species of good bacteria that help regulate important bodily functions.  When this delicate ecosystem is disrupted, it can have detrimental effects on health.  It is especially important to cultivate a healthy, balanced microbiome in children because they are in a critical stage of development.  Unfortunately, this study suggests that the use of antibiotics can affect the makeup of the microbiome for years to come.

Macrolide antibiotics appear to be the most detrimental in terms of their effect upon the microbiome.  For example, researchers found that Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides levels didn’t normalize for a full year after the use of macrolides; and Collinsella and Anaerostipes levels didn’t normalize for two full years. Penicillin didn’t seem to cause such dramatic changes.

Why are these changes such a cause for concern?  The same study cited earlier also found correlations between changes in the microbiome and frequent use of macrolides which may increase the risk of health conditions such as obesity and asthma. This is because the bacteria affected by the use of antibiotics help regulate both metabolism and the immune system.

To learn more about recent developments in the study of the human microbiome, be sure to check out our blog here at CosmosID.  As a genomic big data company specializing in the research and identification of microorganisms, we take a special interest in these developments--and encourage you to do the same.