December 9, 2022

Babies Receiving Antibiotics May Have Gastrointestinal Problems in Adults

New research provides further evidence that exposure to antibiotics early in life can have a lifelong impact.

According to a new study, early exposure to antibiotics in newborn mice had lasting effects on their microbiota, enteric nervous system and gut function.

Posted in the Journal of Physiology1 September 9, the study is the first to show that antibiotics given to newborn mice have long-lasting gastrointestinal (GI) effects, the Physiological Society said in a press release.

The research team from the Department of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, found that antibiotics lead to disruption of gastrointestinal function, including the rate of motility in the gut and symptoms diarrhea in adulthood.

“We are delighted with the results of our study which show that antibiotics given after birth could have prolonged effects on the enteric nervous system,” said chief physiologist Dr Jaime Foong. “This provides further evidence of the importance of the microbiota on gut health. and could introduce new targets to advance antibiotic treatment in very young children.

Foong and his team gave the mice an oral dose of vancomycin every day for the first 10 days of life. They were then raised normally until they were young adults, and their gut tissue was examined to measure its structure, function, microbiota and nervous system.

Neonatal vancomycin treatment disrupted the intestinal functions of young adult female and male mice differently. Antibiotic-exposed females had significantly longer whole bowel transit, while antibiotic-treated males had significantly lower fecal weights than controls. Male and female mice treated with antibiotics had higher percentages of fecal water content.

Mice have many similarities to humans, but they are born with more immature guts than humans and grow faster due to their shorter lifespans, according to The Physiological Society. “Their gut microbiota and nervous system are less complex than humans, so the findings cannot yet be directly associated with human children and infants,”

Researchers will conduct further studies on the mechanisms of antibiotics on the gut and the causes of sex-specific actions. They will also examine whether the early use of antibiotics has effects on metabolism and brain function.


1. Poon SSB, Hung LY, Wu Q, et al. Neonatal antibiotics have sex-dependent long-term effects on the enteric nervous system. J Physiol. 2022 September 9. doi: 10.1113/JP282939.