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The findings of a new study suggest taking antibiotic regimens during childhood may increase the risk of colitis or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) later in life.
Animal studies reveal even short courses of antibiotics can disrupt the microbiota, the ecology of bacteria and other microorganisms, in the guts so severely that it increases the risk of IBD and colitis.
Researchers from Rutgers University and the New York University School of Medicine published the findings late last month in Genome Magazine, after conducting studies on rats and mice to evaluate the side effects of early-life pulsed antibiotic treatment (PAT), including tylosin and amoxicillin’s effect on disease outcomes, such as dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis.
“Epidemiologic studies have shown strong associations with early-life antibiotic use in children and the development of IBD,” the researchers noted. “We aimed to determine whether exposure to a single antibiotic course early-in-life would increase the severity of the experimental colitis induced in mice by DSS challenge.”
According to the findings, a single course of antibiotics early in life altered the immune response of the mice to colitis, worsening its effects. The same thing occurred when the antibiotic-affected microbiota of the mice was transferred to other mice. They too experienced worse colitis symptoms.
The researchers warn the findings go beyond IBD and colitis, and hypothesize disruption of early life microbiome, such as antibiotic use during C-section births, may be weakening children against a wide range of health threats and could be a driver in modern epidemic outbreaks.
“This study provides experimental evidence strengthening the idea that the associations of antibiotic exposures to the later development of disease in human children are more than correlations, but that they are actually playing roles in the disease causation,” study co-author Martin Blaser, director of the Rutgers Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, said in a Rutgers University press release.
The findings also appear to be further evidence for the need to curb antibiotic overuse.
According to two studies published last year, antibiotics are still widely prescribed inappropriately for patients who don’t need the drugs or for patients without confirmed bacterial infections.
Antibiotic overuse and inappropriate prescribing are problematic, as overprescribing often leads to the emergence of antibiotic resistant infections. These superbugs lead to more than 35,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. In fact, researchers warn superbug evolution is outpacing antibiotic development, highlighting the need for stricter antibiotic stewardship and prescribing methods.