clockAs we explained in a previous post, many studies have shown that antibiotic treatment alters our gut microbiota. A study led by Spanish scientists now shows that the changes in the composition of bacterial communities found in our intestine caused by prolonged exposure to antibiotics may lead to weight gain. The metabolic activity of the bacteria that live in our digestive system, our microbiota, is affected by these treatments and may lead to obesity and diabetes.

The study was led by researchers from the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas– CSIC) and the results were published in the journal Gut Microbes. The research also had the support of the EraNET PathoGenoMics2 programme promoted by the European Union.

The study has analysed for the first time the metabolic activity of gut bacteria enzymes present in stool samples of obese and lean individuals, as well as antibiotic-treated and non-antibiotic-treated persons. According to CSIC researcher and lead author Ester Hernández, “the study has allowed us to observe that obese people or those with a high body mass index and people treated with antibiotics show similar metabolic behaviour, with consequences for their ability to assimilate sugars from their diet.”

Prolonged antibiotics treatment modifies the gut microbiota, increasing the activity of its enzymes and leading to swifter and more unbalanced absorption of carbohydrates, which may lead to obesity, food-related disorders and, in the last resort, diabetes.

The study’s conclusions open doors to future research that may lead to the development of personalised diets adjusted to the activity of the enzymes found in each individual’s intestine. Work could also be done in this respect on designing probiotic and prebiotic treatment that may be given along with antibiotics to minimise collateral effects, thus maintaining the diversity and composition of the gut microbiota.

Once more, experts continue to highlight the importance of taking care of the hundreds of trillions of “little friends” that live inside us. Getting to know more about the composition and functioning of the microbiota is essential for the advancement of science and healthcare.

Photo | Marcus Jeffrey