Transplants from Mothers’ Guts to Newborns Could Help Protect Babies from Diabetes After Antibiotics

Antibiotics, when given to newborns within their first few days of life, can have a negative impact on certain aspects of their health. Antibiotics disturb the trillions of beneficial microorganisms in the gut, leaving newborns susceptible to health issues like respiratory allergies, celiac disease, childhood-onset asthma, obesity, eczema, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and type 1 diabetes.

Of course, antibiotics are also great at fighting off or preventing certain deadly diseases in newborns, and sometimes giving them to new babies is simply unavoidable. So what can be done to mitigate the risks of the health problems antibiotics could cause?

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A study conducted by Rutgers scientists and published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe found that there may be a way to decrease the chances of newborns getting type 1 diabetes after being exposed to antibiotics early in life. Their theory is that giving maternal fecal transplants to those infants who were exposed to antibiotics will restore their gut microbiota and decrease their chance of disease.

The team tested their transplant procedures in mouse models and got positive results. They found that mice who were exposed to antibiotics from 5-10 days old and then were given a fecal transplant as much as a week later had an improvement in their gut microbiome health and healed well enough to decrease their diabetes risk back to the baseline level.

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“We were able to identify groups of genes that returned to normal after the transplant as if the mice had never received the antibiotics. The mice that were exposed to antibiotics had the expression of indicator genes in their intestinal wall that were either too high or too low, but the transplant brought that back almost to the original levels and restored metabolic pathways,” says Xue-Song Zhang, assistant research professor at the Center of Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers and co-author of the study.

This study is still in progress. The researchers hope to identify specific beneficial microbes in subsequent tests that contribute to a lower risk of type 1 diabetes.

It is still unknown exactly what causes type 1 diabetes, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that antibiotics in early life tend to play a role in the development of the disease. It’s important that we continue to seek ways to mitigate the risks of antibiotics and increase protection against type 1 diabetes to the best of our ability.

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