Distinct impact of antibiotics on the gut microbiome and resistome: a longitudinal multicenter cohort study

BMC Biol. 2019 Sep 18;17(1):76. doi: 10.1186/s12915-019-0692-y.


Background: The selection pressure exercised by antibiotic drugs is an important consideration for the wise stewardship of antimicrobial treatment programs. Treatment decisions are currently based on crude assumptions, and there is an urgent need to develop a more quantitative knowledge base that can enable predictions of the impact of individual antibiotics on the human gut microbiome and resistome.

Results: Using shotgun metagenomics, we quantified changes in the gut microbiome in two cohorts of hematological patients receiving prophylactic antibiotics; one cohort was treated with ciprofloxacin in a hospital in Tübingen and the other with cotrimoxazole in a hospital in Cologne. Analyzing this rich longitudinal dataset, we found that gut microbiome diversity was reduced in both treatment cohorts to a similar extent, while effects on the gut resistome differed. We observed a sharp increase in the relative abundance of sulfonamide antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) by 148.1% per cumulative defined daily dose of cotrimoxazole in the Cologne cohort, but not in the Tübingen cohort treated with ciprofloxacin. Through multivariate modeling, we found that factors such as individual baseline microbiome, resistome, and plasmid diversity; liver/kidney function; and concurrent medication, especially virostatic agents, influence resistome alterations. Strikingly, we observed different effects on the plasmidome in the two treatment groups. There was a substantial increase in the abundance of ARG-carrying plasmids in the cohort treated with cotrimoxazole, but not in the cohort treated with ciprofloxacin, indicating that cotrimoxazole might contribute more efficiently to the spread of resistance.

Conclusions: Our study represents a step forward in developing the capability to predict the effect of individual antimicrobials on the human microbiome and resistome. Our results indicate that to achieve this, integration of the individual baseline microbiome, resistome, and mobilome status as well as additional individual patient factors will be required. Such personalized predictions may in the future increase patient safety and reduce the spread of resistance.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02058888 . Registered February 10 2014.

Keywords: Antibiotic impact prediction; Antimicrobial resistance; Metagenomics study; Plasmid expansion; Resistome analysis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Ciprofloxacin / adverse effects*
  • Ciprofloxacin / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial* / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial* / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Genes, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Metagenomics / methods
  • Plasmids / drug effects*
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / adverse effects*
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02058888