Antibiotics given to 80% of premature babies can change their gut bacteria for DECADES – and make them more vulnerable to super bacteria, finds study
- Researchers compared premature babies treated with antibiotics for 21 months with preemies treated for one week and untreated full-term babies
- Heavily treated babies had fewer different bacteria in their intestines and, from what they had, the species was often linked to disease
- The bacteria also had more antibiotic-resistant genes that could move to other parts of the body and lead to deadly infections
- At least 80% of premature babies are treated with antibiotics while they are in the NICU
Most premature babies – about 80 percent – receive antibiotics in their first weeks of life to protect them against potentially deadly bacterial infections.
However, a new study finds that they will receive this treatment for a few months – even after they leave the NICU – to permanently change their gut bacteria.
Compared to babies who did not receive antibiotics, the microbiomes of preemies not only had fewer different bacteria, but also more bacteria related to antibiotic resistance.
The team, from Washington University at St. Louis School of Medicine, says his findings suggest that neonatologists should reduce their use of antibiotics in premature babies from a few months to just a few weeks.
A new study from Washington University at St. Louis School of Medicine has shown that premature babies who are treated with antibiotics for a long time had more gut bacteria with antibiotic-resistant genes (file image)
& # 39; The type of microbes that are most likely to survive antibiotic treatment are not the ones we usually associate with healthy gut & nbsp ;, said senior author Dr. Gautam Dantas, pathology and immunology professor at Washington University.
& # 39; The make-up of your gut microbiome is almost determined at the age of three and then remains fairly stable.
& # 39; So if unhealthy microbes get a foothold early in life, they can linger for a very long time. One or two rounds of antibiotics in the first few weeks of your life can still matter when you are 40. & # 39;
For the study, published in Nature Microbiology, the team collected stool samples from 58 infants – 41 of whom were premature and 17 for the full duration.
Of the premature babies, 32 received antibiotics for 21 months – both in the NICU and at home – and nine received antibiotics for less than a week.
None of the full-term antibiotics were given in the hospital or at home.
Researchers discovered that the infants who received the 21-month antibiotic treatment had fewer different bacteria in their gut than the other babies.
The heavily treated babies had less healthy types of bacteria such as Bifidobacteriaceae – which helps maintain a healthy colon – and more unhealthy species, including Proteobacteria, which is linked to salmonella.
In addition, these bacteria contain more antibiotic-resistant genes.
The team says that while this did not cause immediate problems for the baby, it could cause long-term problems.
If gut microbes do not remain in the gut and find their way into the bloodstream or other parts of the body, this can lead to infections that are difficult to treat.
& # 39; These are exactly the type of bacteria that cause urinary tract and bloodstream infections and other problems, & # 39; said Dr. Dantas.
& # 39; So you have a situation where potentially pathogenic microbes settle down early in life and linger. & # 39;
Dr. co-author Barbara Warner, director of the newborn medicine department, says the findings have influenced her and her colleagues at St. Louis Children's Hospital to limit their antibiotic use in preemies.
& # 39; We no longer say: & # 39; Let's just start them on antibiotics because it's better than cure & # 39 ;, said Dr. Warner.
& # 39; We now know that there is a risk of choosing organisms that can persist and cause health risks at a later stage in childhood and life.
& # 39; So we are much more judicious about initiating antibiotic use, and when we start babies & # 39; s taking antibiotics, we take them out once the bacteria are cleared. & # 39;
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