Early-Life Gut Microbiota Disruption Worsens Colitis Later in Life

Antibiotic treatment in childhood may disrupt the microbiome and have long-term consequences.

Although the exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not known, several factors have been associated with the pathogenesis of the disease. These include age, genetics, immune system and environment. Alteration in gut microbiota is thought to play a vital role in IBD disease pathology.

A healthy gut consists of an environment with low oxygen levels and a diverse population of obligate anaerobic bacteria. In contrast, the gut of individuals with IBS tends to have high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitrogen.

Plasmalogens are a common type of ether lipids that are widespread in anaerobic bacteria and animals. They are important for membrane structure and are involved with signaling and protection against ROS. Plasminogen synthase has been found in the majority of members of the gut microbiota, including obligate anaerobes. However, there is scant information regarding plasmalogen-producing bacteria in the gut microbiota.

In a recent study published in the journal Research, Yanjun Liu, Ph.D., and colleagues from the College of Food Science and Engineering, Ocean University of China, investigated the role of gut microbiota in relation to the anaerobic plasmalogen biosynthetic pathway in establishing intestinal homeostasis. Liu and his team hypothesized that plasminogen-positive bacterial species and plasmalogen provide beneficial effects on intestine homeostasis in early life.

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Not surprisingly, a healthy, intact microbiome may reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis.

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The research team obtained feces samples from 19 patients with active ulcerative colitis and 12 healthy participants. The participant ages ranged between 10 and 30 years. Mice models were used for animal experiments.

Liu and colleagues found that early-life microbiota depletion exacerbated colitis later in life, whereas mid-life microbiota depletion was associated with decreased colitis symptoms. The researchers speculate that early-life antibiotic treatment that disrupts the microbiome may lead to a decrease in the protective properties of certain bacteria.

The researchers concluded that the study identified microbes necessary for early-life healthy gut microbiota that can potentially lower the risk of colitis later in life. They recommend the modulation of plasmalogen-positive microbiota as potential targets for intestinal health and the treatment of bowel diseases.

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