Shifting the balance: antibiotic effects on host-microbiota mutualism

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 Apr;9(4):233-43. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2536. Epub 2011 Feb 28.


Antibiotics have been used effectively as a means to treat bacterial infections in humans and animals for over half a century. However, through their use, lasting alterations are being made to a mutualistic relationship that has taken millennia to evolve: the relationship between the host and its microbiota. Host-microbiota interactions are dynamic; therefore, changes in the microbiota as a consequence of antibiotic treatment can result in the dysregulation of host immune homeostasis and an increased susceptibility to disease. A better understanding of both the changes in the microbiota as a result of antibiotic treatment and the consequential changes in host immune homeostasis is imperative, so that these effects can be mitigated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Biomass
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / etiology
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal*
  • Metagenome / drug effects*
  • Microbial Interactions / drug effects*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile