Getting antibiotics as a baby may have lasting effects on brain, behavior

Getting antibiotics as a baby may have lasting effects on brain, behavior

Published: April 5, 2017 at ArsTechnica

This article looks at a few different articles having to do with gut microbiome and their effects on the human brain in terms of behavior.   The main focus is a later paper in a series which looks as the exposure of baby mice to antibiotics given before and after birth.   The mice were split into two groups were one had penicillin introduced through the mother while in the womb and to themselves when they were born, with a later group added in which mice had the penicillin as well as were given a probiotic.   The group that had the penicillin had 42 percent of the population that were aggressive as opposed to the 9 percent in the control group.   Additionally, the antibiotic group appeared to be less social and a little less anxious.   The probiotic mice also had a thinner blood-brain barrier.   The group with the probiotics introduced had some of the effects of the antibiotic blocked.

Being that we talk a lot in class about how helpful a good gut microbiome is and how bad it is to overuse antibiotics —especially those that are more broad-spectrum, the contents of this article are no real surprise to me.   Even talk of cytokines being increased in the brains of exposed mice is a concept that I can understand thanks to learning about then with the immunology portion of class.

Overall, the article does a pretty good job at telling the story of the paper to the general public.   It goes as far as to include a section to discuss some of the limitation of the discussed study, such as the fact that the period of exposure to penicillin was quite long as well as the fact that the exposure before and after death was not differentiated in the study.   My only issue with the paper was that in one of their background statements, they say that, “gut microbes have been caught making most of the neurotransmitters our brains use to regulate themselves,’ but yet the link they provide leads to a paper that seems to more-so talk about the way that our neurotransmitters will influence the gut microbe, not vice versa (though the full paper was a paid paper and not free to view).

Question:   If there is a chance for the probiotics to help block the effects of the antibiotic use in infancy, would it be possible for probiotics to be used in a longer trial such that they eventually reverse the behavior issues that arise from the use of antibiotics?