Early Antibiotic Treatment May Lead to Obesity in the Future


The journal Nature Communications has published a study which supports previous studies suggesting that the risk of obesity in children is increased after the use of commonly prescribed antibiotics.

The researchers reported that the effects of antibiotics on mice made up the research which took place at the NYU Langone Medical Center, The data from this research was linked to a previous study that centered on childhood obesity, according to Claribelle D. Devesa of Latinos Health.

It was found that only broad-spectrum antibiotics, which cause the elimination of some types of bacteria in the body, were linked to obesity in children. Another part of the study included the administration of three antibiotic programs, often given to children, to the mice. The antibiotics were amoxicillin and a type of macrolide called tylosin, mostly used in animals, and a combination of the two.

The result was that the amoxicillin affected bone growth, which Science Daily reports contributes to height development. The amoxicillin influenced the development of significantly larger bones in the mice which were treated with it. The microlide had a noticeable long-term effect on weight gain because it affected the maturation of micro biomes, which are the trillions of microbes that live in the intestinal tract.

The Times of India explained that senior author Martin Blaser was quick to point out that the study was limited to mice, but the results are compatible with multiple other studies which show significant effects on children who have taken antibiotics in early life. He also notes that his and other research could be helpful in shaping guidelines surrounding the duration and type of pediatric prescriptions.

It was the introduction of penicillin in the 1940s, followed by the development of other antibiotics, that caused illness and death from infectious diseases to drop significantly. The problem is that the long-term overuse of antibiotics has resulted in bacteria becoming resistant. Often antibiotics are prescribed for illnesses the drug is not meant to cure, and meat is being eaten from animals raised with antibiotics, causing the drug to become less effective when taken.

The study’s lead author Martin Blaser, MD, director of the Human Microbiome Program at NYU School of Medicine, tells Cassie Shortsleeve of Yahoo Health that the treatment was given for 39 days, but on day 160, there were still differences in the guts of the medicated mice. Long-term bacterial changes in the gut can have an effect on the metabolism, like weight gain, for example. The University of Minnesota’s research into this matter has also connected antibiotic use to allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other diseases which can occur in a child’s future.

“When someone is sick, they really need antibiotics,” reiterates Blaser. “It’s just that we’re overusing them for mild infections or when antibiotics aren’t needed at all because the infections are viral.” 

Kristoffer Forslund, a research scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany, who was not involved in the study, applauded the work of Blaser and his team, reports Health News Digest. This study was a milestone, in Forslund’s opinion, because it was “bold-using high-fidelity shotgun metagenomics in an animal intervention model” which few have done on this large a scale.