Dark- side of Antibiotics

Author : Dr. P. D.GUPTA

(Former Director Grade Scientist, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India)


Data from recent new research in microbiology and infectious disease at Rutgers University, revealed that exposure to antibiotics early in life potentially play a significant role in the brain development. The low doses of penicillin led to substantial changes in the bacteria present in the intestine   in newborn mice affects, development of two key brain areas.    

Many years ago, most antibiotics are used not in humans, but in farm animals. It was found that low doses of antibiotics helped animals, including cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens, grow bigger, faster. Then about 20 years ago, researchers thought “If antibiotics are doing that good to farm animals, what are we doing to our kids?” they thought. 

Exposure to antibiotics early in life affects brain development   

In the US, most children have received about three courses of antibiotic treatment by the time they turn 2 years old. In research published earlier this year with colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, Blaser (the scientist, who did this research for the first time) showed that kids exposed to antibiotics have higher rates of asthma, obesity, type I diabetes, and celiac disease, among other chronic conditions. “There are many studies showing these associations,” Blaser said. “But they are associations, and that’s why we do mouse studies.” 

The researchers administered sub-therapeutic doses of penicillin to pregnant dog or to mouse pups from birth, while another group of mice did not receive any antibiotics. When the researchers assessed the bacteriaof the pups at two weeks of age, they saw substantial differences between the pups that received antibiotics and those that did not. Mice treated with antibiotics lacked some bacterial species that were dominant in the guts of mice that did not receive antibiotics. Due to this even gene expression was different.   

Blaser noted that it is also possible that the antibiotic could have had a direct effect on the brain, rather than going through the bacteria. They plan to dive into the mechanistic details with future experiments.  

“There are some kids who have ear infections that are terrible and should get antibiotics,” Blaser said. “And there are some kids who have extremely mild infections, and they should never get an antibiotic. Then there’s a big gray area in the middle.” 

“Antibiotics are wonderful drugs,” he added, “but we have to use them better because everyone’s using them as if there was no cost.” (The author has his own study and views)