Posted on Sep 30, 2014, 6 a.m.
Due to its effect on the GI system, antibiotics in early life may raise infectious disease risk in later years.
Antibiotics are prescribed to eliminate bad bacteria. Yet, millions of ”good bacteria” (probiotics) live in the gut and help to promote a healthy immune system. Most antibiotic treatments are not able to discriminate between good and bad bacteria – wiping populations of good bacteria out. Kelly McNagny, from the University of British Columbia (Canada), and colleagues tested the impact of two antibiotics, vancomycin and streptomycin, in a lab animal model. They found that streptomycin increased susceptibility to a disease known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis later in life, but vancomycin had no effect. The difference in each antibiotic’s long-term effects can be attributed to how they changed the bacterial ecosystem in the gut. The study authors warn that: “Perinatal antibiotics exert highly selective effects on resident gut flora, which, in turn, lead to very specific alterations in susceptibility to … lung inflammatory disease.”
Russell SL, Gold MJ, Reynolds LA, Willing BP, Dimitriu P, McNagny KM, et al. “Perinatal antibiotic-induced shifts in gut microbiota have differential effects on inflammatory lung diseases.” J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Aug 8. pii: S0091-6749(14)00893-8.