Exposure to more antibiotics ups allergic asthma

Washington: Antibiotics may heighten incidence and severity of allergic asthma in early life, says a new research.

A University of British Columbia study shows that certain antibiotics that affect intestinal bacteria also had a profound impact on allergic asthma.

“It has long been suspected that kids exposed to more antibiotics - like those in developed countries - are more prone to allergic asthma,” said the study’s author, UBC microbiologist Brett Finlay.

“Our study is the first experimental proof that shows how,” he said.

Finlay’s team at UBC’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Michael Smith Laboratories examined how two widely used antibiotics - streptomycin and vancomycin - affected the bacterial “ecosystem” in the gut. They found that vancomycin profoundly alters the bacterial communities in the intestine and increases severity of asthma in mouse models.

The same antibiotics do not impact adult mice’s susceptibility to asthma, indicating that early life is a critical period of establishing a healthy immune system.

The human gut is colonized by approximately 100 trillion bacteria, and contains upwards of 1,000 bacterial species.

According to Finlay, while not fully understood, these micro-organisms, known as “gut flora”, perform a host of useful functions.

“Modern societal practices, such as improved sanitation methods and widespread antibiotic use, are causing the disappearance of ancestral species of bacteria in our gut that may be critical to a healthy immune system,” he said.

“Our study shows this is the case with certain antibiotics and allergic asthma, and the gut-lung connection is also consistent with observations that incidence of asthma has not increased significantly in developing countries where antibiotic use is less prevalent – and in turn, the gut flora is permitted to fully develop,” he added.

The study was published in the journal EMBO.