Antibiotics could alter long-term immunity

19 August 2014

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have found that receiving antibiotic treatments early on in life could increase a person's susceptibility to some diseases later on.

The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, could help scientists better understand how different antibiotics can affect good bacteria. Most bacteria in the gut promote a healthy immune system, but some antibiotics can fail to distinguish between good and bad bacteria. 

Professor Kelly McNagny of the Department of Medical Genetics at UBC and co-leader of the research described this as the "first step to understanding" which bacteria is necessary to develop a healthy immune system later in life.

The team tested two antibiotics - vancomycin and streptomycin - on newborn mice and found that streptomycin increased susceptibility to a disease called hypersensitivity pneumonitis later in life, while vancomycin had no effect. This difference in impact can be attributed to how each antibiotic changed the bacterial ecosystem in the gut. 

Although the researchers stressed that infants should always receive antibiotics when needed, it is hoped that this study can help pinpoint which bacteria make us less susceptible to disease. 

Posted by Philip Briggs​


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