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4bases’ paper of the month – November 2021 – Unravelling the collateral damage of antibiotics on gut bacteria

Our team’s reading recommendation for this month goes to “Unravelling the collateral damage of antibiotics on gut bacteria”[1] by Maier et al., a very interesting paper just published in “Nature”.

It is well known that antibiotics disturb the composition of gut microbiota and cause dysbiosis, but the activity spectrum of different antibiotic classes on gut bacteria remains poorly characterized. The objectives of this study were to fill this gap between knowing and understanding the phenomenon. 144 antibiotics were tested on 38 representative human gut microbiome species, highlighting distinct inhibition spectra.

Whereas the inhibition spectrum of quinolones appeared to be generation dependent, the β-lactams appeared to be phylogeny independent. On their side, macrolides and tetracyclines, usually classified as bacteriostatic, inhibited nearly all commensals but also killed several species, which challenges the long-standing distinction between bactericidal and bacteriostatic antibiotic classes. At the same time, it provides a possible explanation for the strong effect of macrolides on animal and gut microbiomes.

Another objective of this study was then to explore solutions to mitigate the collateral damages of these two classes of antibiotics on the gut microbiome and the authors screened for drugs that specifically antagonized the antibiotic activity against abundant Bacteroides species but not against relevant pathogens. Such antidotes selectively protected Bacteroides species from erythromycin treatment in human-stool-derived communities and gnotobiotic mice.

The findings presented in this paper may allow a better understanding of the activity spectra of antibiotics in commensal bacteria and may suggest strategies to circumvent their adverse effects on the gut microbiota.

We at 4bases are proud to develop and offer molecular diagnostic tools to assess and monitor the status and evolution of the gut microbiota through the different stages and phases of the host life, including when the latter undergoes an antibiotherapy.

We’re getting ready for the future.


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