The microbial communities colonizing the human gut are tremendously diverse and highly personal. The composition and function of the microbiota play important roles in human health and disease, and considerable research has focused on understanding the ecological forces shaping these communities. While it is clear that factors such as diet, genotype of the host, and environment influence the adult gut microbiota community composition, recent work has emphasized the importance of early-life assembly dynamics in both the immediate and long-term personalized nature of the gut microbiota. While the mature adult gut microbiota is believed to be relatively stable, the developing infant gut microbiota (IGM) is highly dynamic and prone to disruption by external factors, including antibiotic exposure. Studies have revealed both transient and persistent alterations to the adult gut microbiota community resulting from antibiotic treatment later in life. As antibiotics are routinely prescribed at a greater rate in the first years of life, the impact of these interventions on the developing IGM is emerging as a key research priority. In addition to understanding the impact of these disruptions on the infant gut microbial architecture and related host diseases, we need to understand the contribution of early life antibiotics to the selection of antibiotic resistance gene reservoirs in the microbiota, and their threat to successful treatment of infectious disease. Here we review the current understanding of the developmental progression of the IGM and the impact of antibiotic therapies on its composition and encoded reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes.
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