Childhood antibiotic use linked to adult inflammatory gut diseases in new study

A new study on mice shows antibiotic use early in life could contribute to development of inflammatory bowel disease and other inflammatory diseases like asthma later in life.

The research, published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, suggests childhood antibiotic use can affect disease development in adulthood, Colby Zaph, PhD, head of the Laboratory of Mucosal Immunity and Inflammation at Monash University in Australia, explained. "This has important ramifications for the use of pre- and probiotics, the administration of antibiotics to neonates and our understanding of how gut bacteria play a critical role in influencing the development of inflammatory diseases such as IBD," he said.

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Dr. Zaph and his team tested two groups of mice — one of pregnant females treated with antibiotics during pregnancy and baby mice treated in the first three weeks of life, and a control group of untreated pregnant mice and babies.

Baby mice that were treated with antibiotics had reduced levels of gut bacteria, and the immune cells from treated mice induced more rapid and severe disease than those from the control group.

"Our intestinal commensal bacteria are now understood to have a major role in shaping immune health and disease, but the details for this process remain poorly understood," said John Wherry, PhD, deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. "These new studies provide an important clue as to how the early signals from our gut bacteria shape key immune cells and how these neonatal events can shape disease potential later in life."

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