Background: In animal studies early life antibiotic exposure causes metabolic abnormalities including obesity through microbiota disruption, but evidence from human studies is scarce. We examined involvement of gut microbiota in the associations between infant antibiotic exposure and childhood adiposity.
Methods: Infant antibiotic exposure in the first year of life was ascertained using parental reports during interviewer-administered questionnaires. Primary outcomes were childhood obesity [body mass index (BMI) z-score > 95th percentile] and adiposity [abdominal circumference (AC) and skinfold (triceps + subscapular (SST)) measurements] determined from ages 15-60 months. At age 24 months, when the gut microbiota are more stable, stool samples (n = 392) were collected for the gut microbiota profiling using co-abundancy networks. Associations of antibiotic exposure with obesity and adiposity (n = 1016) were assessed using multiple logistic and linear mixed effects regressions. Key bacteria associated with antibiotics exposure were identified by partial redundancy analysis and multivariate association with linear models.
Results: Antibiotic exposure was reported in 38% of study infants. In a fully adjusted model, a higher odds of obesity from 15-60 months of age was observed for any antibiotic exposure [OR(95% CI) = 1.45(1.001, 2.14)] and exposure to ≥3 courses of antibiotics [2.78(1.12, 6.87)]. For continuous adiposity indicators, any antibiotic exposure was associated with higher BMI z-score in boys [β = 0.15(0.01, 0.28)] but not girls [β = -0.04(-0.19, 0.11)] (P interaction = 0.026). Similarly, exposure to ≥3 courses of antibiotics was associated with higher AC in boys [1.15(0.05, 2.26) cm] but not girls [0.57(-1.32, 2.45) cm] (P interaction not significant). Repeated exposure to antibiotics was associated with a significant reduction (FDR-corrected P values < 0.05) in a microbial co-abundant group (CAG) represented by Eubacterium hallii, whose proportion was negatively correlated with childhood adiposity. Meanwhile, a CAG represented by Tyzzerella 4 was positively correlated with the repeated use of antibiotics and childhood adiposity.
Conclusions: Infant antibiotic exposure was associated with disruption of the gut microbiota and the higher risks of childhood obesity and increased adiposity.