Targeted approach: Probiotics and breastfeeding found to reduce potential antibiotic resistance in children

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10 May 2018 --- Targeted probiotic supplementation in breastfed infants can significantly reduce the potential for antibiotic resistance, according to research presented this week at the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) Annual Meeting. According to the study, breastfed infants fed a specific probiotic strain of B. infantis had, on average, 87.5 percent less antibiotic resistance genes in their gut microbiome when compared with breastfed infants who had received lactation support alone.

Moreover, 38 antibiotic resistant genes were reduced in the supplemented infants, including genes associated with resistance to a wide range of drugs prescribed to treat respiratory, intestinal and urinary infections, chlamydia and acne.

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Targeted probiotic supplementation in breastfed infants can
significantly reduce the potential for antibiotic resistance,
new research presented at the 51st ESPGHAN Annual Meeting shows.
Image credit: ESPGHAN.

“These results demonstrate that targeted bacterial supplementation is capable of remodeling the ecology of the infant gut microbiome and therefore reduce antibiotic gene reservoirs in children. We found that supplementation with the infant gut symbiont significantly diminished both the abundance and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes,” says Dr. Giorgio Casaburi, lead author of the research.

Dr. Casaburi and his team assessed infants who, along with exclusive breastfeeding, received a supplementation of the probiotic for 21 days. After two weeks of supplementation, fecal samples were collected and compared with infants who had exclusively received breastmilk to evaluate the presence of antibiotic resistance genes.

The probiotic utilized in the research is uniquely adapted to thrive in the infant gut and is often missing from the microbiome of infants born in Europe and the US today. In the absence of this protective bacterium, other bacteria colonize the gut microbiome and enable the evolution, persistence and dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes.

“The supplementation offers a novel approach towards providing an alternative, safe and non-invasive method to decrease the number of genes that resist antibiotics in infants" adds Dr. Casaburi. “This is the first demonstration of significant remodeling of the infant gut microbiome. This modulation could help to reduce the burden and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes in current and future generations.”

Antibiotic resistance has been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the biggest threats to global health and the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance gene carriage is a growing public health concern. 

Misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating this threat, and a growing number of infections are becoming more difficult to treat as antibiotics become less effective. 

The research project DRIVE-AB, a consortium managed by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and AstraZeneca, has determined that a market entry reward of US$1 billion per antibiotic globally could significantly increase the number of new antibiotics coming to the market in the next 30 years.

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