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BMC Medicine

, 14:57

The Microbiome and Man


BackgroundChildhood obesity and overweight are among the greatest health challenges in the pediatric population. Obese individuals exhibit marked differences in the composition of the intestinal microbial community as compared to lean subjects. These changes in the gut microbiota precede the clinical manifestation of overweight. Convincing experimental data suggest a causal role for intestinal microbes in the development of obesity and associated metabolic disorders.

DiscussionExposure to antibiotics exerts a devastating impact on the intestinal microbial community. Epidemiological studies have provided evidence indicating that early or repeated childhood exposure to antibiotics is associated with increased risk of overweight later in childhood but the causal role of this exposure in obesity development is not clear. However, data from studies conducted using experimental animal models indicate that antibiotic-induced changes in the gut microbiota influence host metabolism and lead to fat accumulation. The intestinal microbiota perturbation caused by antibiotic exposure in the perinatal period appears to program the host to an obesity-prone metabolic phenotype, which persists after the antibiotics have been discontinued and the gut microbiota has recovered. These observations may have serious implications in the clinical setting, since a substantial number of human infants are subjected to antibiotic treatment through the mother during delivery or directly in the immediate neonatal period. The clinical significance of these exposures remains unknown.

SummaryPrudent use of antibiotics is paramount not only to reduce the propagation of antibiotic-resistant organisms but also to minimize the potentially detrimental long-term metabolic consequences of early antibiotic exposure. Improved means of reliably detecting neonates with bacterial infection would reduce the need for empirical antibiotic exposure initiated based on nonspecific symptoms and signs or risk factors. Finally, means to support healthy microbial contact in neonates and infants requiring antibiotic treatment are needed.

KeywordsAntibiotics Gut microbiota Infant Neonate Obesity Overweight  Download fulltext PDF

Autor: Olli Turta - Samuli Rautava


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