The initial state of the human gut microbiome determines its reshaping by antibiotics

ISME J. 2016 Mar;10(3):707-20. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.148. Epub 2015 Sep 11.


Microbiome studies have demonstrated the high inter-individual diversity of the gut microbiota. However, how the initial composition of the microbiome affects the impact of antibiotics on microbial communities is relatively unexplored. To specifically address this question, we administered a second-generation cephalosporin, cefprozil, to healthy volunteers. Stool samples gathered before antibiotic exposure, at the end of the treatment and 3 months later were analysed using shotgun metagenomic sequencing. On average, 15 billion nucleotides were sequenced for each sample. We show that standard antibiotic treatment can alter the gut microbiome in a specific, reproducible and predictable manner. The most consistent effect of the antibiotic was the increase of Lachnoclostridium bolteae in 16 out of the 18 cefprozil-exposed participants. Strikingly, we identified a subgroup of participants who were enriched in the opportunistic pathogen Enterobacter cloacae after exposure to the antibiotic, an effect linked to lower initial microbiome diversity and to a Bacteroides enterotype. Although the resistance gene content of participants' microbiomes was altered by the antibiotic, the impact of cefprozil remained specific to individual participants. Resistance genes that were not detectable prior to treatment were observed after a 7-day course of antibiotic administration. Specifically, point mutations in beta-lactamase blaCfxA-6 were enriched after antibiotic treatment in several participants. This suggests that monitoring the initial composition of the microbiome before treatment could assist in the prevention of some of the adverse effects associated with antibiotics or other treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cefprozil
  • Cephalosporins / administration & dosage
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metagenomics
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cephalosporins