Babies Receiving Antibiotics May Develop Gut Problems As Adults: Study

Babies given antibiotics can grow up and suffer from gastrointestinal problems, according to a study conducted on mice.

Premature and low birth weight babies are routinely given antibiotics to prevent, not just treat, the infections they are at high risk of developing.

The study, published in The Journal of Physiology, found that early exposure to antibiotics in newborn mice has long-lasting effects on their microbiota, enteric nervous system and gut function.

The team from the University of Melbourne in Australia is the first to show that antibiotics given to mice have these long-lasting effects that lead to disruptions in gastrointestinal function, including motility velocity in the gut and symptoms diarrhea in adulthood.

“We are very excited about the results of our study which show that antibiotics given after birth may have prolonged effects on the enteric nervous system,” said Jaime Foong, study leader.

“This provides further evidence for the importance of the microbiota on gut health and could introduce new targets to advance antibiotic treatment in very young children,” Foong said.

The researchers gave the mice an oral dose of vancomycin every day for the first ten days of life. They were then raised normally until they were young adults, and their gut tissue was examined to measure its structure, function, microbiota and nervous system.

The researchers found that the changes also depended on the sex of the mice.

The study found that females had a long entire intestinal transit – a measure of how long it takes food to move through our system – and males had lower fecal weight than the control group.

Both males and females had higher fecal water content, which is a diarrhea-like symptom, the researchers said.

The researchers noted that although mice bear many similarities to humans, they are born with more immature guts than us and have accelerated growth due to their shorter lifespan.

Their gut microbiota and nervous system are less complex than humans, so the findings cannot yet be directly associated with human children and infants, they said.

Researchers will do further studies on the mechanisms of antibiotics on the gut and causes of sex-specific actions, and whether early antibiotic use has effects on metabolism and brain function.

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