May 10, 2018
2 min read

Probiotic supplement reduces antibiotic resistance genes in infants

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Photo of Giorgio Casaburi
Giorgio Casaburi

Supplementing breast milk with a probiotic strain of Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis EVC001 reduced the prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes among infants, according to data presented at the 51st Annual Meeting of the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

The findings suggest that B. infantis supplementation could be a safe and noninvasive way to decrease the burden and diversity of genes that are associated with resistance to a wide range of drugs, including beta-lactamases, fluoroquinolones and tetracyclines, Giorgio Casaburi, PhD, senior bioinformatics scientist at Evolve Biosystems Inc., and colleagues reported.

B. infantis is currently missing in the majority of infants in resource-rich countries. In fact, an extensive meta-analysis has shown that B. infantis used to be passed on by mom during childbirth, but over the last 100 years, it's been missing in baby's gut due to an exponential increase of C-sections, antibiotic use and formula feeding,” Casaburi told Infectious Disease News. “Interestingly, our comparative analysis shows that B. infantis is still present in other parts of the world where these practices are less present, particularly in less resource-rich countries.”

In a previous trial, Casaburi and colleagues found that administering a daily dose of B. infantis EVC001 to infants for 21 days led to substantial and persistent B. infantis colonization up to 60 days. For the more recent trial, the researchers used shotgun metagenomics to examine the impact of colonization on the level of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the gut microbiome of exclusively breast-fed infants. Their analysis included 29 infants who were randomly assigned to targeted probiotic supplementation (n = 29) 1 week after birth or breast milk alone (n = 31).

According to the results, infants who were fed B. infantis had 87.5% fewer ABGs in fecal samples than infants who did not receive the supplement. The researchers identified 38 specific ARGs that were significantly reduced among supplemented infants. They also found that B. infantis supplementation reduced the prevalence of Escherichia bacteria, which they said predominantly harbor ARGs.

“Now that we have shown colonization with B. infantis EVC001 reduces the abundance of bacteria that harbor antibiotic resistance genes, we’re exploring how these antibiotic-resistant bacteria might relate to infection — and the rise of antibiotic-resistant nosocomial infections,” Casaburi said. “We’ve shown that the abundance of broad families of bacteria is changed, but using this new approach (shotgun metagenomics) will let us examine this observation in greater depth.” – by Stephanie Viguers


Casaburi G, et al. Abstract N-O-005. Presented at: Annual Meeting of the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition; May 9-12, 2018; Geneva.

Frese SA, et al. mSphere. 2017;doi:10.1128/mSphere.00501-17.

Disclosure: Casaburi is an employee of Evolve Biosystems, Inc., which funded the research.