A new study at the University of Chicago has determined that restoring a single microbial species — Bacteroides sp. CL1-UC (Bc) — to the gut microbiome at a key developmental timepoint can prevent antibiotic-induced colitis in a mouse model of the condition. The results, published on June 7 in Gastroenterology, have major implications for humans dealing with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and underscore the impact of early childhood exposures on health throughout the lifetime.

Prior studies in human patients have found that early life exposure to antibiotics can skew the gut microbiome, causing dysbiosis, or an imbalance of the microbial populations in the gut, which is correlated with increase risk for developing pediatric IBD.

“We know that the kinds of microbes that you’re exposed to early in life actually determine how your immune system develops,” said senior author Eugene Chang, MD, Martin Boyer Professor of Medicine at UChicago. “Our immune system learns to recognize our own selves, and the trillions of microbes in our gut — they’re ‘us’ as well, so our immune system has to learn to tolerate these organisms, just as it tolerates our own cells. Early exposure to antibiotics can eradicate some of the organisms that are essential for educating the immune system to develop immune tolerance.”

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Originally published in The Forefront, 6/7/2021