Antepartum Antibiotic Treatment Increases Offspring Susceptibility to Experimental Colitis: A Role of the Gut Microbiota

PLoS One. 2015 Nov 25;10(11):e0142536. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142536. eCollection 2015.


Background and aims: Postnatal maturation of the immune system is largely driven by exposure to microbes, and thus the nature of intestinal colonization may be associated with development of childhood diseases that may persist into adulthood. We investigated whether antepartum antibiotic (ATB) therapy can increase offspring susceptibility to experimental colitis through alteration of the gut microbiota.

Methods: Pregnant C57Bl/6 mice were treated with cefazolin at 160 mg/kg body weight or with saline starting six days before due date. At 7 weeks, fecal samples were collected from male offspring after which they received 4% dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) in drinking water for 5 days. Disease activity index, histology, colonic IL-6, IL-1β and serum C-reactive protein (CRP) were determined. The V3-V4 region of colonic and fecal bacterial 16S rRNA was sequenced. Alpha-, beta-diversity and differences at the phylum and genus levels were determined, while functional pathways of classified bacteria were predicted.

Results: ATB influenced fecal bacterial composition and hence bacterial functional pathways before induction of colitis. After induction of colitis, ATB increased onset of clinical disease, histologic score, and colonic IL-6. In addition, ATB decreased fecal microbial richness, changed fecal and colon microbial composition, which was accompanied by a modification of microbial functional pathways. Also, several taxa were associated with ATB at lower taxonomical levels.

Conclusions: The results support the hypothesis that antepartum antibiotics modulate offspring intestinal bacterial colonization and increase susceptibility to develop colonic inflammation in a murine model of colitis, and may guide future interventions to restore physiologic intestinal colonization in offspring born by antibiotic-exposed mothers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • C-Reactive Protein / immunology
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cefazolin / adverse effects*
  • Colitis / chemically induced
  • Colitis / immunology*
  • Colitis / microbiology
  • Colitis / pathology
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology
  • Interleukin-1beta / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-1beta / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microbial Consortia / drug effects*
  • Microbial Consortia / immunology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / immunology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / microbiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / pathology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Interleukin-6
  • interleukin-6, mouse
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Cefazolin

Associated data

  • SRA/SRR2728570

Grants and funding

This study was supported by operating grants from Research Manitoba, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and by the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.