"Treatment with the antibiotic vancomycin increases the severity of allergic asthma in young mice, researchers in Canada have revealed in a new study published in EMBO reports. The results are consistent with the "hygiene hypothesis" that links the loss of beneficial bacteria in the community of microorganisms in the gut, collectively known as the microbiota, to the onset of asthma.
Allergic asthma affects more than 100 million people worldwide and its prevalence is increasing, particularly among children in industrialized countries. Improved sanitation and widespread antibiotic use have been cited as possible reasons for the increase.
We administered antibiotics to mice of different ages to determine if there was a link between the makeup of the microbial community in the gut and the extent of experimentally induced allergic asthma," said Dr. Brett Finlay, Professor at the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia, Canada. "Treatment of young mice with the antibiotic vancomycin reduced the diversity of microbes in the gut, significantly altered the composition of the bacterial population, and increased the susceptibility of young animals to experimentally induced asthma.
Many studies have suggested that the colonization of the gut early in life plays a substantial role in shaping the development of the immune system. More than 100 trillion bacteria, including more than 1000 bacterial species, colonize the human gut. If the balance of the microbial community in the gut is disrupted, the ability of the body to resist the onset of disease may be compromised."
Antibiotics have been implicated in asthma, diabetes, obesity, altered immune system function, malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies, and cancers, among many other conditions. The effects may not be realized until many years later. The importance of healthy gut flora to the health of the entire body can never be overstated.