Antibiotics as Major Disruptors of Gut Microbiota
Advances in culture-independent research techniques have led to an increased understanding of the gut microbiota and the role it plays in health and disease. The intestine is populated by a complex microbial community that is organized around a network of metabolic interdependencies. It is now understood that the gut microbiota is vital for normal development and functioning of the human body, especially for the priming and maturation of the adaptive immune system. Antibiotic use can have several negative effects on the gut microbiota, including reduced species diversity, altered metabolic activity, and the selection of antibiotic-resistant organisms, which in turn can lead to antibiotic-associated diarrhea and recurrent Clostridioides difficile infections. There is also evidence that early childhood exposure to antibiotics can lead to several gastrointestinal, immunologic, and neurocognitive conditions. The increase in the use of antibiotics in recent years suggests that these problems are likely to become more acute or more prevalent in the future. Continued research into the structure and function of the gut microbiota is required to address this challenge.