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Boys grow slower when antibiotics are given as newborns

Along Karina Shah

Newborns treated with antibiotics are more likely to slow down growth

Kamil McNearac / Alami

If boys take antibiotics in the first two weeks of their lives, weight and height gains are more likely to be below average, but girls have no effect.

Some babies are given antibiotics to treat suspected bacterial infections and prevent sepsis. Samuli Rautava and his colleagues at the University of Helsinki, Finland, investigated the long-term effects of giving antibiotics to newborns within the first two weeks of life.

They recorded the growth of 12,422 children from birth to the age of six. All were born between 2008 and 2010 at Turku University Hospital in Finland. Of these, 1151 babies were given antibiotics within the first 14 days of life because doctors suspected a bacterial infection.


Infants who received antibiotics tended to be significantly shorter in height and weight at 6 years of age than babies who did not receive antibiotics, which was only observed in boys, not girls. .. “We have shown for the first time that exposure to antibiotics in the first few days of life has long-term effects,” says Lautaba.

Researchers suspect that antibiotics may cause long-term changes in the baby’s gut flora, resulting in reduced growth.

Bacteria in the gut are “forgotten organs,” says Omley Koren, co-author of the University of Bairan, Israel. They digest our food, train our immune system, and help protect us from harmful foreign bacteria.

“When you use antibiotics to kill bacteria that can cause disease, you also accidentally kill other good bacteria,” says Lautaba. This change in the gut flora appears to be the cause of failure to thrive in boys after antibiotic use.

To test this idea, the team transplanted microorganisms from the feces of babies who received or did not receive antibiotics into mice. They observed the same results – male mice fed the microbiota from babies treated with antibiotics were much smaller than female mice.

The exact reason why the effect is only seen in men is still under investigation. Martin Blaser of Rutgers University, NJ, suggests that it may be associated with gender differences in gut gene expression. Men and women experience intestinal genetic differences as early as two days after birth.

The long-term effects of a series of antibiotics need to be investigated, but Lautaba says it must be remembered that drugs are needed to prevent severe bacterial infections in babies. “Antibiotics save lives,” he says.

Journal reference: Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-20495-4

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Boys grow slower when antibiotics are given as newborns

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