Could Obesity Be Cured/Created at Birth with Manipulation of Microbiome?

A concise review (NJEM 2014; 371: 2526-28) quickly describes the latest science on microbiota, antibiotics, and obesity chiefly by summarizing the work of Cox LM et al (Cell 2014; 158: 705-21).

Key points:

  • In mice, studies have shown that low-dose penicillin in early life induces marked effects on body composition (eg. excessive weight gain) lasting into adulthood
  • Prenatally administered penicillin to the mother and high-fat diet also induced fat mass of male mice.
  • Gut microbiota transferred from penicillin-moderated flora mice (at 18 weeks) into the cecums of 3-week-old germ-free mice also resulted in excessive fat mass compared to controls who received gut microbiota transfer from control mice (who did not receive penicillin).
  • “These results suggest that immunologic and metabolic changes are not caused by direct effects of antibiotics but rather by derived changes in the gut microbiota.”
  • “It may even be speculated that in families in which obesity is a problem, specific antibiotic treatment at birth could reverse the adverse effect of obesogenic microbiota transferred from mother to infant during delivery.”

Take-home message: Understanding the microbes in our bodies may lead to much more than curing intestinal infections and intestinal maladies.

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