The vast majority of the nearly half-million infants born prematurely in the United States are given antibiotics, even without evidence of infection. Many preemies are kept on the drugs after blood tests say they are not sick. Yet that practice, once considered the best way to protect a hospital’s most vulnerable patients, is now being challenged. Some studies suggest that even while helping fight certain infections, those drugs may encourage others by wiping out an infant’s developing gut microbiome. Disrupting that microbial ecosystem may also promote a host of problems later in life, such as asthma and obesity. And recent research indicates that long after preemies leave the neonatal intensive care unit, they can harbor many antibiotic-resistant microorganisms, potentially endangering not only themselves, but also the wider population.
A delicate balance
Science 06 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6384, pp. 18-20