A new study from Rutgers University has revealed that antibiotics can be a double-edged sword when used in early childhood. The study found that even though early exposure to antibiotics can be effective against bacterial infections in early childhood, they also kill off “good” bacteria in the digestive tract. Furthermore, the study found that early childhood exposure to antibiotics can also cause allergies and asthma later in life.
The study, which published its findings in the “Mucosal Immunology” journal, adds to the growing body of research that indicates antibiotic exposure during the early childhood years is associated with the late development of allergies and asthma. In fact, this recent study provides the strongest evidence of this relationship, demonstrating that early childhood use of antibiotics isn’t completely risk free.
Researchers from Rutgers University, the University of Zurich and New York University noted that the use of antibiotic medications by children has a negative effect on metabolic functions and gut microbiome communities. These overall changes in the structure of microbiota can weaken host immunity and make children more susceptible to medical issues as they grow older, the researchers said.
Martin Blaser, senior study author and director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers University, advised avoiding antibiotic use in young children as much as possible because it may increase the child’s risk of developing long-term issues with asthma and/or allergies.
The first part of the research involved dosing five-day old mice with amoxicillin, azithromycin and water, with the researchers exposing the mice to a common house dust mite allergen as they matured. The mice that had received the antibiotics when they were younger had elevated rates of allergies. In the subsequent second and third parts of the experiment, the researchers sought to determine if early-childhood exposure to antibiotics could later result in asthma and allergies by killing healthy gut bacteria that are associated with proper immune system development.
To test this hypothesis, Timothy Borbet, the lead author of the study, transferred bacteria-rich fecal samples from one group of mice to another group of adult mice that had not been exposed to germs or bacteria. Some of the adult mice received fecal samples from mice that had been dosed with amoxicillin or azithromycin as infants, while others received samples from mice that’d only gotten water.
The adult mice that had received the antibiotic-tainted samples were unlikely to develop immune responses to allergens from dust mites (allergies) just as people who take antibiotics as adults aren’t as likely to develop allergies or asthma in response to common allergens. However, offspring of the mice that received antibiotic-rich samples had stronger reactions to dust mites compared to the children of the mice that received antibiotic-free samples.
Blaser concluded that the research provided compelling evidence that early exposure to antibiotics could affect gut bacteria and result in unfavorable immune responses. It is these unfavorable immune responses that have prompted various companies such as Aditxt Inc. (NASDAQ: ADTX) to invest significant resources into studying how one’s immune system can be influenced to change the way it responds to triggers in the environment.
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