Infant Antibiotic Use Linked to Adult Diseases

June 15, 2015
A colorful illustration of bacteria.

A new study led by U of M researchers has found a three-way link among antibiotic use in infants, changes in the gut bacteria, and disease later in life. The imbalances in gut microbes, called dysbiosis, have been tied to infectious diseases, allergies, other autoimmune disorders, and obesity later in life.

Antibiotics are by far the most common prescription drugs given to children. They account for about one-fourth of all medications prescribed to children, with a third of these prescriptions considered unnecessary. Other studies have shown profound short- and long-term effects of antibiotics on the diversity and composition of the bacteria in our bodies, called our microbiome.

“Diseases related to metabolism and the immune system are increasing dramatically, and in many cases we don’t know why,” said the study’s senior author Dan Knights, a computational biologist and McKnight Land-Grant assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Biotechnology Institute.

“Previous studies showed links between antibiotic use and unbalanced gut bacteria, and others showed links between unbalanced gut bacteria and adult disease,” Knights said. “Over the past year we synthesized hundreds of studies and found evidence of strong correlations between antibiotic use, changes in gut bacteria, and disease in adulthood.”

Knights and his colleagues also developed a framework to map how antibiotics may be acting in the gut to cause disease later in life.