Early-Life Antibiotic Exposure, Gut Microbiota Development, and Predisposition to Obesity

Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2017;88:67-79. doi: 10.1159/000455216. Epub 2017 Mar 27.


Antibiotics are often prescribed inappropriately to infants and young children, with potentially adverse effects on the developing gut microbiota and related metabolic processes. We review evidence from 17 epidemiologic studies suggesting that antibiotic exposure during critical periods of early development may influence weight gain and the development of obesity. Complementary research in both humans and rodents indicates that gut microbiota play a key role in this process, although further research is needed to confirm and characterize the causal mechanisms involved. Obesity is a complex and multifactorial condition; thus, a multipronged prevention strategy will be required to curb the current obesity epidemic. Evidence to date suggests this strategy should include the judicious use of antibiotics, especially in early life when the developing gut microbiota is particularly susceptible to perturbations with long-lasting implications for metabolic programming and obesity risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents