Babies Given Antibiotics May Have Adult GI Issues


New research adds further evidence that early in life antibiotic exposure can have lifelong impact.

Early life exposure to antibiotics in neonatal mice had long-lasting effects on their microbiota, enteric nervous system, and gut function, according to a new study.

Published in the Journal of Physiology1 on September 9, the study is the first to show that antibiotics given to neonatal mice had long-lasting gastrointestinal (GI) effects, The Physiological Society said in a news release.

The research team from the department of anatomy and physiology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, found that antibiotics resulted in disturbed GI function, including the speed of motility through the gut and diarrhea-like symptoms in adulthood.

"We are very excited about the findings of our study which show that antibiotics given after birth could have prolonged effects on the enteric nervous system,” said lead physiologist Dr. Jaime Foong. “This provides further evidence of the importance of microbiota on gut health and could introduce new targets to advance antibiotic treatment to very young children.”

Foong and team gave mice an oral dose of vancomycin every day for the first 10 days of their lives. They were then reared normally until they were young adults, and their gut tissue was examined to measure its structure, function, microbiota, and nervous system.

Neonatal vancomycin treatment disrupted the gut functions of young adult female and male mice differently. Antibiotic-exposed females had significantly longer whole gut transit whereas antibiotic-treated males had significantly lower fecal weights compared to controls. Both male and female antibiotic-treated mice had greater percentages of fecal water content.

Mice have many similarities to humans, but they are born with more immature guts than humans and have accelerated growth due to their shorter life spans, according to The Physiological Society. “Their gut microbiota and nervous systems are less complex than humans, so the findings cannot yet be directly associated to human children and infants,”

The researchers will be conducting further studies on the mechanisms of antibiotics on the gut and the causes of the sex-specific actions. They will also examine whether early life antibiotic use has effects on metabolism and brain function.


1. Poon SSB, Hung LY, Wu Q, et al. Neonatal antibiotics have long term sex-dependent effects on the enteric nervous system. J Physiol. 2022 Sep 9. doi: 10.1113/JP282939.

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