The Science of Healthy Microbiomes to Address the Threat of Antibiotic Resistance and Weight Gain


The reduction in healthy microbe flora present in the gut due to overuse of antibiotics can lead to weight gain. One of the major threats faced by humankind is antibiotic resistance. In the US alone, resistant infections are estimated to affect over two million people every year, with roughly 23,000 deaths.1

It is to be noted that everyone is vulnerable to be affected by a resistant microorganism infection. According to Margaret Chan, former WHO Director General, “a post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

Considering the very real threat of carbapenam-resistant Enterobacteriacea (CRE), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the medical community seems not to be more effective in diagnosing and treating potential infectious diseases.

Prescribing broad spectrum antibiotics is simply more convenient for many doctors, even if a narrow-spectrum antibiotic would be more effective in treating the etiological agent or no antibiotic at all as in the case of a viral infection.

However, it cannot be ignored that the medical community faces a significant pressure from the patients themselves to provide them with a prescription. People demand to prescribe antibiotics for themselves as well as for their children as that is what they are used to and if they are not satisfied with one doctor, they will approach another doctor until they get satisfied.

Groups like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have taken initiatives like “Get Smart” campaign to create awareness on the threats of antibiotic resistance among general population and the medical community. However, individual patients often do not change their prescribing behavior, irrespective of the message on the global risk of antibiotic resistance.

Healthy Microbiome – a new field of science

“Healthy Microbiome” is an emerging field of science, which can help people realize the risks associated with the overuse of antibiotics, the synergistic relationships between humans and the bacteria living inside them, and the issues people will experience when there is a disruption in that relationship.

The count of bacterial cells within an individual is roughly 10 times higher than the human cells. The uptake of antibiotics by people not only destroys the bacteria responsible for the disease but also kills the healthy ones.

It is known that most of the bacteria present in the gut are involved in various useful activities such as digesting food, but new information has been reported in recent studies, for instance, children treated with antibiotics at their younger age became fatter than those not treated with antibiotics.2 Also, in a test, transplanting the gut flora from overweight children caused mice to become overweight.

Aside from weight gain; mood disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even autism3 have now been linked to an unbalanced microflora.3 In a study, autism was linked to vaccines, but that study results have been completely debunked.

However, some parents still hesitate to vaccinate their kids. In this new field of science, bacterial species in various concentrations are observed in the guts of autism-affected kids, and potential mechanisms on how they are linked are being explored.

Therefore, if the danger of antibiotic resistance does not change the prescribing habits of medical professionals and the patients of patients, then may be the new field of science, revealing far more immediate dangers to their health can make a change in their prescribing behavior.

However, to achieve this, the right diagnosis is vital so that people can know what they are dealing with, thereby bringing in confidence to provide treatment accordingly.


Produced from materials originally authored by Norman Moore, Ph.D, Director of Scientific Affairs, Infectious Diseases, Alere.


  1. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013.
  2. Transande L, J Blustein, M Liu, E Corwin, LM Cox and MJ Blaser. Infant antibiotic exposures and early-life body mass. International Journal of Obesity. 2013. 37: 16-23.
  3. Buie, T. Potential etiological factors in microbiome disruption in autism. Clinical Therapeutics. 2015. 37: 976-983.

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Last updated: Mar 13, 2017 at 10:57 AM


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