The relationship between inflammatory bowel disease and antibiotic use in people has been well established. In fact, just a week ago or so, I wrote about how low levels of the regulatory cytokine, IL-10, combined with antibiotic use, appears to make one more susceptible to IBD.
As it turns out, giving a pregnant mom antibiotics also increases the risk of IBD in her baby.[i] Researchers at New York University School of Medicine inoculated pregnant mice with microbiota from mice who had been exposed to antibiotics. They found that the antibiotic-induced changes in the microbiota persisted in these mothers and that these differences were passed on to the offspring. The babies had less diversity, with “…changes in the numbers of key species present.”
Now it gets really interesting: “The study then compared pups born from normal mothers with those born from mothers who were engineered to lack the gene for the immune protein interleukin 10 (IL-10), a known damper on the tendency of the immune system to create too much inflammation, and used widely in IBD studies.” Those pups born to the IL-10 deficient mothers had a far greater tendency to develop IBD from the antibiotic-altered bacteria: 55X greater, in fact, then those born of IL-10-deficient moms who had normal gut bacteria.
“Taken together, our findings indicate that antibiotic exposure shaping the maternal gut microbiota has effects that extend to the offspring, with both ecological and long-term disease consequences.”[ii]
How amazing, and scary, is that?
[ii] Schulfer, AF, et. al. Intergenerational transfer of antibiotic-perturbed microbiota enhances colitis in susceptible mice. Nature Microbiology. 2017. doi:10.1038/s41564-017-0075-5