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Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Research published in Antibiotics, investigated the effect of early-life exposure to antibiotics and household cleaning

products on C. difficile colonization in infants. Infants colonized by C. difficile usually show no symptoms but C. difficile is a major pathogen that is responsible for diarrhea in adults and older children. Colonization in infancy may serve as a reservoir for adult C. difficile infections, or it may indicate that the infant has lower resistance to colonization and that the maturation of its gut microbiota may be delayed. This, in turn, may make the child more vulnerable to allergies and asthma, which we already know are associated with early-life antimicrobial exposure.

Our team analyzed the stool of 1,429 infants in CHILD at 3–4 months of age and 1,728 infants in CHILD at 12 months of age, and studied associations with antimicrobial exposures collected from hospital birth charts and standardized questionnaires. They found that C. difficile colonization was significantly higher in infants at 3-4 months exposed to both antibiotics and a higher usage of household cleaning products. This higher colonization persisted up to 12 months of age. Our study suggests that cumulative exposure to systemic antibiotics and higher usage of household cleaning products facilitates C. difficile colonization in infants. Further research is needed to understand the future health impacts.

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

SyMBIOTA research published in the International Journal of Obesity, examined the relationship between the presence of specific metabolites in an infant’s gut, and a child’s risk of obesity at one and three years of age.

Using samples from 647 infants in the CHILD Study, researchers analyzed a number of important metabolites in the infants’ stool at age 3-4 months and correlated them with information about these children’s body mass index (BMI) scores at ages 1 and 3 years. They found that a greater presence of one infant fecal metabolite (formate) lowered the BMI by age three, whereas the greater presence of a different metabolite (butyrate) increased a child’s BMI. However, the researchers also found that these differences in metabolites did not affect obesity risk among infants that were exclusively breastfed; in other words, exclusive breastfeeding appeared to counterbalance the obesity-influencing effects of these fecal metabolites.

The study identifies an important area of future research in understanding the pathogenesis of obesity.

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Research from the SyMBIOTA team, published in the journal Microorganisms, set out to explore the joint effect of multiple birth-related factors—delivery mode, antibiotic use during childbirth, and the onset of labour—on the abundance of a specific bacterium (Bifidobacterium) in the infant gut microbiome.

Our team studied associations between the microbes in the stool of 1,654 infants in the CHILD Study and found that the abundance of beneficial Bifidobacteria was decreased in infants born vaginally whose mothers received antibiotics during birth, even among breastfed infants, and was also decreased in infants born by cesarean delivery, with or without labour. Significant correlations between Bifidobacterium abundance and other microbial taxa were also observed.

Members of the genus Bifidobacterium are pioneer gut colonizers. They are considered foundational microbiota members that influence the early-life gut microbial community and exert positive effects on host health.

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