Effects of early-life antibiotics on the developing infant gut microbiome and resistome: a randomized trial

Marta Reyman, Marlies A van Houten, Rebecca L Watson, Mei Ling J N Chu, Kayleigh Arp, Wouter J de Waal, Irene Schiering, Frans B Plötz, Rob J L Willems, Willem van Schaik, Elisabeth A M Sanders, Debby Bogaert

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Broad-spectrum antibiotics for suspected early-onset neonatal sepsis (sEONS) may have pronounced effects on gut microbiome development and selection of antimicrobial resistance when administered in the first week of life, during the assembly phase of the neonatal microbiome. Here, 147 infants born at ≥36 weeks of gestational age, requiring broad-spectrum antibiotics for treatment of sEONS in their first week of life were randomized 1:1:1 to receive three commonly prescribed intravenous antibiotic combinations, namely penicillin + gentamicin, co-amoxiclav + gentamicin or amoxicillin + cefotaxime (ZEBRA study, Trial Register NL4882). Average antibiotic treatment duration was 48 hours. A subset of 80 non-antibiotic treated infants from a healthy birth cohort served as controls (MUIS study, Trial Register NL3821). Rectal swabs and/or faeces were collected before and immediately after treatment, and at 1, 4 and 12 months of life. Microbiota were characterized by 16S rRNA-based sequencing and a panel of 31 antimicrobial resistance genes was tested using targeted qPCR. Confirmatory shotgun metagenomic sequencing was executed on a subset of samples. The overall gut microbial community composition and antimicrobial resistance gene profile majorly shift directly following treatment (R2 = 9.5%, adjusted p-value = 0.001 and R2 = 7.5%, adjusted p-value = 0.001, respectively) and normalize over 12 months (R2 = 1.1%, adjusted p-value = 0.03 and R2 = 0.6%, adjusted p-value = 0.23, respectively). We find a decreased abundance of Bifidobacterium spp. and increased abundance of Klebsiella and Enterococcus spp. in the antibiotic treated infants compared to controls. Amoxicillin + cefotaxime shows the largest effects on both microbial community composition and antimicrobial resistance gene profile, whereas penicillin + gentamicin exhibits the least effects. These data suggest that the choice of empirical antibiotics is relevant for adverse ecological side-effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number893
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date16 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2022

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© 2022. The Author(s).


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