Antibiotics in infancy may cause obesity in adults

Altered microbiome may prompt fat gain later

12:01pm, August 14, 2014

PLUMP UP  Mice treated as babies with low doses of penicillin (right, MRI image of an animal’s abdomen shown) nearly doubled their body fat when fed high-fat diets as adults. Mice that didn’t get antibiotics as babies (left) didn’t pack on as much fat on the same diet.   

Antibiotics given to infants may have life-long consequences, a study of mice suggests.

Low doses of antibiotics given to pregnant mice and to their newborns led baby mice to become obese as adults, researchers report August 14 in Cell. The effect was not due to the drugs themselves but to the disruption of the rodents’ gut microbiome, the community of microbes living in the mice’s intestines.

“We’re using antibiotics as if there were no cost,” says microbiologist Martin Blaser of New York University, who led the study. “The costs are not immediate but may be long-term.”

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