Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) published study results on Sunday that show antibiotics given to nursing mothers may harm the immune response of newborn babies.
The study showed gut microbes have a critical role in rapid production of white blood cells, called granulocytes.
"At birth, newborns move from a largely sterile environment to one full of microorganisms," CHOP Neonatology Researcher Hitesh Deshmukh said. "Animals and humans adapt to this new situation by ramping up the production of granulocytes within the first days of life."
The study shows that microbes passed to newborns through the mother initiate that immune transition, but it was reduced when mothers were exposed to antibiotics.
The study, completed with mice, revealed antibiotics reduced the diversity of gut bacteria and inhibited resistance to infection.
Doctors have used a fecal transplant procedure to replace diverse gut bacteria and successfully treat bacterial infections in human adults. The procedure has not been used in newborns, and researchers said more work needs to be done before the treatment can be recommended.
Senior author CHOP Neonatologist Scott Worthen said more studies need to be completed to determine if a combination of microbes could be used to jumpstart a newborn's immune system after a completed course of antibiotics.