A single course of antibiotics affects the gut microbiota of infants


A recently completed study at the University of Helsinki found that the fungal microbiota in the gut is more abundant and diverse in children treated with antibiotics compared to the control group, even six weeks after starting antibiotic treatment. In light of the results, a reduction in the number of gut bacteria following antibiotic therapy reduces competition for space and leaves more room for fungi to multiply.

“Our research results clearly indicate that bacteria in the gut regulate the fungal microbiota and keep it under control. When bacteria are disrupted by antibiotics, fungi, candidiasis in particular, having the chance to reproduce,” says PhD student Rebecka Ventin-Holmberg from the University of Helsinki.

A key new finding from the study was that changes in the fungal gut microbiota, as well as the bacterial microbiota, are part of the cause of the long-term adverse effects of antibiotics on human health.

Long-term changes in infant gut microbiota

Antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed drugs for infants. They cause changes in the intestinal microbiota at its most important stage of development. These changes were also found to take longer than those of adults.

“Antibiotics can adversely affect bacterial and fungal microbiota, which can lead to, for example, antibiotic-associated diarrhea,” says Ventin-Holmberg.

“In addition, antibiotics increase the risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and have also been shown to be linked to excess weight,” adds she.

These long-term effects are thought to be caused, at least in part, by an imbalance in the gut microbiota.

In the intestine, everything is linked

The recently published study involved infants with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection who had never received antibiotics before. While some children received antibiotics due to complications, others received no antibiotic therapy throughout the study.

“Studying the effects of antibiotics is important for the development of techniques that can be used to prevent chronic inflammatory diseases and other disturbances of the gut microbiota in the future,” Ventin-Holmberg points out.

While the effect of antibiotics on the bacterial microbiota has already been studied, studies on the fungal microbiota are rare. The results of this study indicate that fungal microbiota may also play a role in the long-term effects of gut microbiota imbalance.

“Therefore, future research should focus on all gut microorganisms to better understand their interconnections and gain a better overview of the microbiome as a whole,” Ventin-Holmberg notes.

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Materials provided by University of Helsinki. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


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