Antibiotic use during pregnancy increases offspring asthma severity in a dose-dependent manner

Allergy. 2020 Aug;75(8):1979-1990. doi: 10.1111/all.14234. Epub 2020 Mar 11.


Background: The use of antibiotics during pregnancy is associated with increased allergic asthma risk in the offspring, and given that approximately 25% of pregnant women are prescribed antibiotics, it is important to understand the mechanisms contributing to this phenomenon. Currently, there are no studies that directly test this association experimentally. Our objective was to develop a mouse model in which antibiotic treatment during pregnancy results in increased offspring asthma susceptibility.

Methods: Pregnant mice were treated daily from gestation day 8-17 with an oral solution of the antibiotic vancomycin, and three concentrations were tested. At weaning, offspring were subjected to an adjuvant-free experimental asthma protocol using ovalbumin as an allergen. The composition of the gut microbiome was determined in mothers and offspring with samples collected from five different time points; short-chain fatty acids were also analyzed in allergic offspring.

Results: We found that maternal antibiotic treatment during pregnancy was associated with increased offspring asthma severity in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, maternal vancomycin treatment during pregnancy caused marked changes in the gut microbiome composition in both mothers and pups at several different time points. The increased asthma severity and intestinal microbiome changes in pups were also associated with significantly decreased cecal short-chain fatty acid concentrations.

Conclusion: Consistent with the "Developmental Origins Hypothesis," our results confirm that exposure to antibiotics during pregnancy shapes the neonatal intestinal environment and increases offspring allergic lung inflammation.

Keywords: antibiotics; asthma; microbiome; pregnancy; short-chain fatty acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Asthma* / drug therapy
  • Asthma* / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity*
  • Mice
  • Ovalbumin
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ovalbumin