children exposed to antibiotics early are more at risk

THE ESSENTIAL

  • Excessive exposure to antibiotics contributes to the development of bacterial resistance.
  • If antibiotics are prescribed by a doctor, it is important to respect the dosage and duration of treatment. When the dosage of antibiotics or the duration of treatment is not respected, certain bacteria survive the treatment and have the opportunity to become resistant.

In case of illness, antibiotics should never be automatic, especially in young children.

This is the conclusion of a new study conducted by researchers from the universities of Rutgers (USA), New York and the University of Zurich (Switzerland). Published in the journal Mucosal immunologyit provides strong evidence of the link between exposure to antibiotics in early childhood and the later development of asthma and allergies.

In the study, the researchers note that antibiotics, which today count “among the most commonly used drugs in children, affect gut microbiome communities and metabolic functions. These changes in microbiota structure can affect host immunity”.

A change in the immune response

The research was conducted on five-day-old mice that were given water, azithromycin or amoxicillin, two broad-spectrum antibiotics that are regularly prescribed.

After the mice had matured, the researchers exposed them to a common allergen derived from house dust mites. Mice that received either antibiotic, particularly azithromycin, had high levels of innate immune responses that caused allergies.

The results of the experiment made it possible to verify that early exposure to antibiotics killed the healthy gut bacteria that promote the proper development of the immune system. The researchers transferred bacteria-rich fecal samples from the first group of mice to a second group of adult mice that had never been exposed to bacteria or germs. Some received samples from mice given azithromycin or amoxicillin as children. Others received normal samples from mice given water.

No risk of asthma or allergies when taking antibiotics in adulthood

The results showed that rodents given antibiotic-modified samples were no more likely than others to develop immune reactions to mites, just as people who receive antibiotics as adults are no more likely to develop asthma or allergies than those who do not get them.

However, it was different for the next generation of mice. Offspring that received antibiotic-modified stool samples reacted more to the mites than those whose parents received non-antibiotic-modified samples.

According to the authors, “These experiments provide strong evidence that antibiotics elicit negative immune responses through their effects on gut bacteria, but only if these are altered in early childhood.”.


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