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Early, repeated exposure to antibiotics may affect children’s development

Source:Ringier Medical

Date Published:7/1/2015 05:07:38 PM

A new research points to weight gain, larger bone development, and gut microbiome disruption resulting from antibiotics intake. 

MULTIPLE courses of commonly used antibiotics may impact children’s development significantly, according to a new animal study conducted by researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center.

The study, which was published on the Nature Communications, revealed female mice treated with two classes of widely used childhood antibiotics gained more weight, developed larger bones, and experienced a disruption in the gut microbiome, the trillions of microbes found in the intestinal tract.

The experiment involved three short courses of amoxicillin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic; tylosin, which represents a common antibiotic class called the macrolides but is not used in children; or a mixture of both drugs. The researchers gave the mice the same number of prescriptions and dose given to the average child in the first two years of life to mimic the effects of pediatric antibiotic use. A control group of mice received no drugs at all.

The findings, which support a growing body of evidence on the effects of antibiotics on child development,  reveal short, high-dose pulses of tylosin had the most pronounced and long-lasting effect on weight gain. Amoxicillin had the biggest effect on bone growth, a prerequisite for increased height.

 Both antibiotics also had an effect on the gut microbiome based on extensive DNA sequencing data. According to Martin Blaser, MD, the study’s senior author, the ecology of the microbiome was affected in terms of the richness of the organisms, the diversity, and also what is called the community structure, or the nature of its composition. In addition to the bacterial species, the drugs altered the relative numbers of microbial genes linked to specific metabolic functions.

Study findings further indicate microbiomes exposed to antibiotics may be less adaptable to environmental changes. The microbiomes of the control mice all shifted within a single day to the high-fat diet implemented by the researchers on day 41 to adjust to the new setup. Among the mice treated with amoxicillin, some microbiomes shifted in one day, while others took two weeks to make the transition.

Dr. Blaser noted that although the study was limited to mice, the results validate multiple other studies on the significant effects of early antibiotics exposure on children. The researchers acknowledge the value of knowing the effects of tylosin on weight gain and microbiome disruption, particularly in the light of the rising popularity of macrolide antibiotic prescriptions for children.

The cumulative data highlight the need for better awareness of the potential downsides of antibiotic overuse. The team hopes the data could help shape guidelines on the type and duration of pediatric prescriptions. 

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