July 13, 2024

Surprising Connection Found Between Malnutrition and Antibiotic Resistance, According to New Study

The study focused on the impact of micronutrient deficiencies, including vitamin A, B12, folate, iron, and zinc, on the composition of gut microbiomes in early stages of life.

The research team discovered that these deficiencies caused significant shifts in the gut microbiome of mice, particularly an expansion of bacteria and fungi known to be opportunistic pathogens. Furthermore, the mice with micronutrient deficiencies showed a higher abundance of genes associated with antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Paula Littlejohn, a postdoctoral research fellow at UBC’s department of medical genetics and department of pediatrics, as well as the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, emphasized the significance of micronutrient deficiencies in the conversation about global antibiotic resistance. The study suggests that nutrient deficiencies can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance, which poses a major global health concern.

Bacteria naturally possess genes that serve as defense mechanisms. However, certain conditions such as antibiotic pressure or nutrient stress can increase these mechanisms, potentially rendering potent antibiotics ineffective and turning common infections into deadly threats.

While antibiotic overuse and misuse have previously been identified as causes of antibiotic resistance, this study highlights the importance of addressing the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient deficiencies. Globally, approximately 340 million children under the age of five suffer from multiple micronutrient deficiencies, impacting their growth and altering their gut microbiomes. Alarmingly, these children often receive antibiotics for malnutrition-related illnesses, potentially exacerbating the problem, as their gut microbiomes may already be primed for antibiotic resistance due to underlying micronutrient deficiencies.

Published in Nature Microbiology, the study provides critical insights into the wide-ranging consequences of micronutrient deficiencies early in life. It emphasizes the need for comprehensive strategies to combat undernutrition and its ripple effects on health. Addressing micronutrient deficiencies is not only crucial for tackling malnutrition but may also play a vital role in the fight against the global threat of antibiotic resistance.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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