Breaking News
December 10, 2018 - Laws to curb use of cell phones have greatly reduced fatalities for motorcyclists
December 10, 2018 - Argenx Provides Detailed Data from Phase 2 Clinical Trial of Efgartigimod in Immune Thrombocytopenia and Phase 1/2 Clinical Trial of Cusatuzumab in Acute Myeloid Leukemia
December 10, 2018 - University of Maryland doctors treat first breast cancer patients with GammaPod radiotherapy
December 10, 2018 - The heartbeat seat: Demoing new well-being technologies in a car
December 10, 2018 - Leading Cancer Researcher to Direct Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
December 10, 2018 - Study compares pain-related diagnoses in First Nations and non-First Nations children, youth
December 10, 2018 - Scientists find answers to how cancer spreads
December 10, 2018 - Study explores why older people read more slowly
December 10, 2018 - Asbestos found in most NHS hospitals finds BBC inquiry
December 10, 2018 - Researchers use new technique to probe hydrogen bonds
December 10, 2018 - Music improves social communication in autistic children
December 10, 2018 - Some Brain Tumors May Respond to Immunotherapy, New Study Suggests
December 10, 2018 - Banning junk food ads to combat childhood obesity
December 10, 2018 - Skin Autofluorescence Predicts T2DM, Heart Disease, Mortality
December 10, 2018 - Largest autism sequencing study to date yields 102 genes associated with ASD
December 10, 2018 - Statins associated with low risk of side effects
December 10, 2018 - Episodic memory tests help in predicting brain atrophy and Alzheimer’s disease
December 10, 2018 - Study explores how schools address adolescent self-harming practices
December 10, 2018 - Pregnancy in adolescence linked to increased risks of complications in young mothers
December 10, 2018 - Risk Analysis publishes special issue on communicating about Zika virus
December 10, 2018 - Botox May Help Prevent Post-Op A-Fib
December 10, 2018 - African-American mothers rate boys higher for ADHD
December 10, 2018 - Graphic warning labels cancel out cigarettes’ appeal to young people
December 10, 2018 - Australian researchers to study gas inhalational anaesthetic and likelihood of cancer return
December 10, 2018 - Individual neurons located within the brain have implications for psychiatric diseases
December 10, 2018 - Researchers improve bariatric surgery scoring system to extend prediction time for diabetic remission
December 10, 2018 - HPV type 16 or 18 associated with cervical cancer risk in young women
December 10, 2018 - Cervical cancer risk is higher in women with positive HPV, but no cellular abnormalities
December 10, 2018 - Combo therapy not needed if low RA disease activity achieved
December 10, 2018 - Novel therapeutic targets based on biology of aging show promise for Alzheimer’s disease
December 10, 2018 - UC San Diego professor receives NCI Outstanding Investigator Award for cancer research
December 10, 2018 - Study evaluates placental mesenchymal stem cell sheets for myocardial repair and regeneration
December 10, 2018 - Blueprint Medicines Announces Updated Results from Ongoing EXPLORER Clinical Trial of Avapritinib Demonstrating Broad Clinical Activity and Significant Symptom Reductions in Patients with Systemic Mastocytosis
December 10, 2018 - Study clarifies ApoE4’s role in dementia
December 10, 2018 - Eating disorders now a top priority with Australian Government
December 10, 2018 - Neuronal activity in the brain allows prediction of risky or safe decisions
December 10, 2018 - FDA Alerts Health Care Professionals and Patients Not to Use Drug Products Intended to be Sterile from Promise Pharmacy
December 10, 2018 - Improving dementia care and treatment saves thousands of pounds in care homes
December 10, 2018 - Heroin-assisted treatment can offer benefits, reduce harms
December 10, 2018 - People covered by Michigan’s expanded Medicaid program report improvements in health, finds study
December 10, 2018 - Hazelnuts improve micronutrient levels in older adults
December 9, 2018 - History of Partner Violence Tied to Menopause Symptoms
December 9, 2018 - Clean Up Safely After a Disaster|Natural Disasters and Severe Weather
December 9, 2018 - Drug wholesalers drove fentanyl’s deadly rise, report concludes
December 9, 2018 - Deprescribing could help manage polypharmacy in older adults
December 9, 2018 - Retraction of article “Joy of cooking too much” from journal
December 9, 2018 - FDA Warns of Rare Stroke Risk With MS Drug Lemtrada (Alemtuzumab)
December 9, 2018 - Feds say heroin, fentanyl remain biggest drug threat to US
December 9, 2018 - Eliminating microglia can reverse some aspects of stress sensitization, study shows
December 9, 2018 - New genetic insight could help treat rare debilitating heart and lung condition
December 9, 2018 - MiRagen Therapeutics Announces Final Safety, Biodistribution and Clinical Efficacy Data From Phase 1 Cobomarsen Clinical Trial in Patients With Mycosis Fungoides
December 9, 2018 - Work with your doctor to weigh pros, cons of treatment options for hyperthyroidism
December 9, 2018 - CWRU researcher secures $14.6 million funding for genetic study into Alzheimer’s disease
December 9, 2018 - High intensity statin treatment and adherence could save more lives
December 9, 2018 - Surgery patients use only 1/4 of prescribed opioids, and prescription size matters
December 9, 2018 - AXT offers Phi Optics upgrade to QPI systems for inverted light microscopes
December 9, 2018 - New booklet could help improve conditions of young pupils with albinism
December 9, 2018 - Few Physicians Work in Practices That Use Telemedicine
December 9, 2018 - Older Adults and Oral Health
December 9, 2018 - Health utility values improve after septorhinoplasty
December 9, 2018 - New EU-funded project provides insight into how the brain develops
December 9, 2018 - Expanded use of tele-emergency services can help strengthen rural hospitals
December 9, 2018 - Infections in the Young May Be Tied to Risk for Mental Illness: Study
December 9, 2018 - Profile: Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
December 9, 2018 - Snoring poses greater cardiac risk to women
December 9, 2018 - Researcher takes further steps in understanding how and why cute aggression occurs
December 9, 2018 - Researchers create new light-activated tools for controlling neurons
December 9, 2018 - Spinal cord injury disrupts the body’s internal clock, study shows
December 9, 2018 - Babies recognize nested structures similar to our grammar
December 9, 2018 - UT Austin researcher receives $2.5 million CZI grant for neurodegenerative disease research
December 9, 2018 - Sleep problems found to be prevalent and increasing among college students
December 9, 2018 - Study reveals why some children are susceptible to the effects of maltreatment
December 9, 2018 - Study investigates influence of different opioids on driving performance
December 9, 2018 - Jazz Pharmaceuticals Announces First Patient Enrolled in Phase 3 Clinical Trial Evaluating JZP-258 for the Treatment of Idiopathic Hypersomnia
December 9, 2018 - Eliminating microglia prevents heightened immune sensitivity after stress
December 9, 2018 - Boys with social difficulties are at greatest risk of early substance use
December 9, 2018 - ‘Wrong’ connective tissue cells linked to worse prognosis in breast cancer patients
December 8, 2018 - Chronic, refractory schizophrenia patients benefit from targeted cognitive training
December 8, 2018 - Advertising in kids’ apps more prevalent than parents may realize
December 8, 2018 - New way to trace the transmission histories of rare genetic diseases
Breastfeeding protects infants from antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Breastfeeding protects infants from antibiotic-resistant bacteria

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A recent study completed at the University of Helsinki investigated the amount and quality of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in breast milk and gut of mother-infant pairs. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers report three findings. First, infants who were breastfed for at least six months had a smaller number of resistant bacteria in their gut than babies who were breastfed for a shorter period or not at all. In other words, breastfeeding seemed to protect infants from such bacteria.

Second, antibiotic treatment of mothers during delivery increased the amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the infant gut. This effect was still noticeable six months after delivery and treatment.

The third finding was that breast milk also contains bacteria resistant to antibiotics and that the mother is likely to pass these bacteria on to the child through milk. Nevertheless, breastfeeding reduced the number of resistant bacteria in the infant gut, an indication of the benefits of breastfeeding for infants.

Microbiologist Katariina Pärnänen of the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry investigated with her colleagues the breast milk and faecal matter of 16 mother-infant pairs. The researchers sequenced bacterial DNA in the milk and decoded its genetic code. However, the study did not focus on the mother’s DNA found in milk. The researchers created the most extensive DNA sequence library of breast milk thus far.

The specific focus of the study was the number of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Such genes make bacteria resistant to certain antibiotics, and they are often able to transfer between bacteria. Individual bacteria can have several antibiotic resistance genes, making them resistant to more than one antibiotic.

The study demonstrated for the first time that breast milk contains a significant number of genes that provide antibiotic resistance for bacteria, and that these genes, as well as their host bacteria, are most likely transmitted to infants in the milk. Mothers transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria residing in their own gut to their progeny in other ways, as well, for example, through direct contact. Yet only some of the resistant bacteria found in infants originated in their mothers. The rest were likely from the environment and other individuals.

The study does, however, support the notion that breastfeeding overall is beneficial for infants. Although breast milk contains bacteria resistant to antibiotics, sugars in the milk nourish beneficial infant gut bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria, which are used as probiotics. Breast milk helps such useful bacteria gain ground against resistant pathogens, which is probably why infants who were nursed for at least six months have less antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their gut compared to infants who were nursed for a shorter period.

“As a general rule, it could be said that all breastfeeding is for the better,” says Pärnänen.

“The positive effect of breastfeeding was identifiable also in infants who were given formula in addition to breast milk. Partial breastfeeding seemed to reduce the quantity of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Another finding was that nursing should be continued for at least the first six months of a child’s life, or even longer. We have already known that breastfeeding is all in all healthy and good for the baby, but we now discovered that it also reduces the number of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.”

Antibiotic use by mother impacts the child

Women can be prescribed an intravenous antibiotic treatment during labour for various reasons, for example, if they have tested positive for Streptococcus, a bacterium hazardous to infants. In such cases, antibiotic treatment is intended to prevent the transmission of bacteria living in the birth canal to the infant during delivery. Antibiotic treatment can also be used if the mother’s water has broken long before labour begins, or if potential infection is otherwise suspected.

However, the study indicated that the antibiotic treatment of the mother increases the number of bacteria resistant to antibiotics in the infant’s gut. While the study did not demonstrate why this happens, according to one theory, the bacteria that first reach the infant gut gain a head start. Since antibiotics administered to the mother eliminate all bacteria except those resistant to the drug; in such deliveries, the mother is likely to pass mainly resistant bacteria on to her child.

“We cannot advise that mothers should not be given antibiotics during delivery,” says Pärnänen. “The consequences of infection for both mother and infant are potentially serious. What we can state is our findings, and physicians can use them to consider whether practices should be changed or not.”

However, antibiotic treatment administered during delivery is only one of all the antibiotic courses taken by mothers at some point in their life that may impact the gut microbiota of infants. The bacterial flora in the gut changes every time we take antibiotics. Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, leaving alive only those bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic in question. These bacteria may gain a permanent foothold in the gut, even though most of the other bacteria will return soon after the antibiotic treatment as well.

Since the mother transmits bacteria resistant to antibiotics to the infant, all of the antibiotic courses taken by the mother in her life may also affect the bacterial flora of the infant’s gut and the prevalence of resistant bacteria in the gut.

One of the major global health threats

Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest global threats to human health. According to estimates from previous research, bacteria and other micro-organisms resistant to antibiotics and other drugs will cause more deaths than cancer by 2050 since infections can no longer be effectively treated.

Bacteria resistant to antibiotics are everywhere. They are present in the human gut, regardless of antibiotic use. They are transmitted between individuals in the same way as bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms usually are: through, for example, direct contact and in food.

Not all resistant bacteria cause diseases, and thus do not harm their carriers. In suitable conditions, however, such bacteria can either induce the onset of a disease or transfer the gene that provides antibiotic resistance to another bacterial pathogen.

Because such bacteria cannot be killed with antibiotics, and because the immune system of infants is weak, infections caused by resistant bacteria can be fatal to infants. In Finland, where Pärnänen is based, babies die of such infections only rarely. Yet prior studies show that, globally, more than 200,000 newborns die annually of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria that have advanced to the stage of sepsis.

“Babies inherit every facet of antibiotic misuse since the discovery of antibiotics,” notes Pärnänen. “The amount of bacteria resistant to antibiotics in the infant gut is alarming, since infants are also otherwise vulnerable to diseases. Babies are more likely to suffer from this than adults, even if the babies have never been given antibiotics.”

Health problems originating in resistant bacteria are accrued by those with weak immunity. Infants and the elderly are in particular danger. Since the immune system of infants has not reached the efficiency of adult immunity, small children often need antibiotics to recover from diseases, which makes antibiotic inefficiency more dangerous to children.


Explore further:
Low antibiotic concentration in the environment enough to increase antimicrobial resistance in laboratory conditions

More information:
Katariina Pärnänen et al, Maternal gut and breast milk microbiota affect infant gut antibiotic resistome and mobile genetic elements, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06393-w

Journal reference:
Nature Communications

Provided by:
University of Helsinki

About author

Related Articles