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Researchers discover New Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Kids' Gut Microbes

Update Date: Nov 15, 2013 04:35 PM EST

One of the biggest health problems that have developed over time is antibiotic resistance. Due to the over use of antibiotics within the past years, certain strains have become resistant to antibiotics, making them more difficult to treat. In a new study, researchers examined the friendly microbes present in children's intestinal tracts. They discovered many antibiotic resistance genes that could interfere with the effectiveness of antibiotics.

For this study, the researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO examined the fecal matter of 22 children. The children were between six months and 19-years-old. Even though the fecal samples were limited, the research team was able to identify 2,500 new antibiotic resistance genes. This increased the list of known antibiotic resistance genes by 30 percent. The team also tested the intestinal microbial DNA against 18 different kinds of antibiotics. The team found that only four of the antibiotics were effective.

"Microbes have been battling each other for millennia, regularly inventing new antibiotic synthesis genes to kill off rivals and new antibiotic resistance genes to defend themselves," Gautam Dantas PhD, assistant professor of pathology and immunology, said. "That microbial arms race is where this vast array of genetic resources comes from."

The new discovery suggests that doctors need to be more restrictive when they write prescriptions for antibiotics. When these genes interact with harmful microbes, the effectiveness of the antibiotics is jeopardized.

"From birth to age 5, children receive more antibiotics than during any other five-year time span in their lives," said senior author Dantas. "Frequent exposure to antibiotics accelerates the spread of antibiotic resistance. Our research highlights how important it is to only use these drugs when they are truly needed."

The study was funded by the Children's Discovery Institute, the International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability, the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It was published in PLOS ONE.

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