McNagny et al. provide key insights into longterm effects of antibiotics

In research led by CBR member, Kelly McNagny, and published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, UBC investigators revealed that different antibiotics affect bacteria that play a positive role in promoting a healthy immune system. They found that receiving antibiotic treatments early in life can increase susceptibility to specific diseases later on.

Kelly Aug2014Most bacteria in the gut are important in promoting a healthy immune system. Exposure to antibiotics naturally alters the bacterial flora, and thus may be detrimental. In collaboration with UBC microbiologist Brett Finlay, and Kelly’s research team in the Dept. of Medical Genetics and the Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), the impact of two antibiotics, vancomycin and streptomycin, was examined on newborn mice. Interestingly, streptomycin increased susceptibility to a hypsensitivity lung disease later in life, but vancomycin had no effect. The difference in each antibiotic’s long-term effects were attributed to how they changed the bacterial ecosystem in the gut.

The researchers underline the importance in not taking these findings to mean that infants should not receive antibiotics! Indeed, when required, antibiotics save lives! However, the work will hopefully identify the mechanisms by which bacteria modulate disease at different developmental time points, and may reveal means of boosting the immune response to suppress disease.

This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and AllerGen NCE, a national research network funded by Industry Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) Program.

Dr. McNagny and his colleagues are to be congratulated on this major advance, which is being widely recognized throughout the academic world and the media (see links below)!

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