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article imageAntibiotics may harm newborn children

By Tim Sandle     Apr 28, 2014 in Science
Bacteria from the mother are said to help "kickstart" a baby’s immune system. However, antibiotics used by the mother to fight bacterial infection may have the reverse effect and could interrupt immune system development for the infant.
A new animal study by neonatology researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) looks at the immunology in newborns. The study shows how gut bacteria play an important role in fostering the rapid production of infection-fighting white blood cells, called granulocytes. These are the cells of the immune system that are involved in defending the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials.
The study, carried out using mice, showed that neonatal mice have a spike in white blood cells, but this response was reduced when their mothers had prenatal and postnatal exposure to antibiotics. This lower level of white blood cells led the infant mice to be more vulnerable to pathogens.
The study also found that the effects could be reversed. The researchers reversed the abnormal effect by taking normal intestinal microbes from mice that were not exposed to antibiotics and transferring them to mice that had received antibiotics. When a similar procedure is performed in humans, it is called a fecal transplant, and has recently shown success in treating severe bacterial infections in adults (although such techniques have yet to be tried on newborns).
Fecal transplants (or fecal bacteriotherapy), as Digital Journal has previously reported, aim to restore the balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in the colon.
The new research also relates to the so-termed 'hygiene hypothesis'. In medicine, the hygiene hypothesis is a theory that states that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, certain microorganisms (such as gut bacteria or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing the natural development of the immune system.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Medicine, in a paper titled “The microbiota regulates neutrophil homeostasis and host resistance to Escherichia coli K1 sepsis in neonatal mice.”
More about Antibiotics, Immune System, hygiene hypothesis, Bacteria, Dirt
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