Antibiotics During Child Birth Effect Healthy Gut Bacteria in Babies


According to a study from McMaster University in Canada, the use of antibiotics during child birth to treat Group B Streptococcus (GBS) can effect the development of gut bacteria in babies.

The study published today in the journal Scientific Reports,  found that the development of the gut bacteria was delayed in babies that were exposed to antibiotics used to treat Streptococcus during child. The study also found that development was further increased with longer exposure to the antibiotics.

While the microbiota’s developmental delay was initially very significant in the babies exposed to the Group B Streptococcus antibiotics or GBS, by 12 weeks of age however the delay appears to have largely disappeared.

“Early life microbial colonization and succession is critically important to healthy development, with impacts on metabolic and immunologic processes throughout life,” said Jennifer Stearns, assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University and a scientist of the University’s Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute.

The findings are significant as approximately 25% of pregnant women are thought to carry Group B Streptococcus and when identified during screening, many mothers are prescribed antibiotics in child birth to prevent the Streptococcus bacteria being passed to the infant through birth.

What is Group B Streptococcus?

Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacterial infection that can be found in a pregnant woman’s vagina or rectum. Approximately 1 in 200 infants may contract the infection if their mothers carry GBS and are not treated with antibiotics. If untreated the infection can result in Sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis, which are the most common complications as well as Breathing problems, Heart and blood pressure instability and Gastrointestinal and kidney problems and death in a very small number of infants.

What affect does exposure to antibiotics have?

“Our research indicates there is a delay in the expansion of the dominant infant gut colonizer, called Bifidobacterium, when infants are exposed to antibiotics for GBS prevention during vaginal labour,” said Stearns.

“It’s a good sign that bacterial groups recover by 12 weeks but it’s still unclear what these findings mean for infant health, especially since early infancy is such an important developmental time.”

This research will be followed by a more significant study examining the long-term affects of antibiotic treatments during child birth in the successful transfer of microbes from the mother and on the health and disease risk of the baby

The study which consisted of full term healthy babies that were predominantly born vaginally and breast-fed babies. It was also noted in the study – as has been observed previously – the babies born by Cesarean-section also experiences a delay in the development of their gut bacteria compared to babies born vaginally that were not exposed to antibiotics.





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