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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2013 Jan;68(1):214-21. doi: 10.1093/jac/dks348. Epub 2012 Sep 4.

Alterations in intestinal microbiota of elderly Irish subjects post-antibiotic therapy.

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Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork, Ireland.



The human intestinal microbiota composition alters naturally with age, but is unusually perturbed by antibiotic therapy. The impact of antibiotic therapy on the composition of the intestinal microbiota of a cross-section of elderly Irish subjects (n = 185, ≥ 65 years) was investigated, taking into consideration their residence location.


Forty-two of the 185 elderly subjects were treated with at least one antibiotic within 1 month prior to faecal microbiota profiling. The residence locations of the subjects varied from long-term nursing care and rehabilitation wards to day hospitals and the community.


Culture-dependent methods indicated that faecal Bifidobacterium spp. numbers were significantly reduced following antibiotic treatment (P = 0.004, 7-fold reduction), while levels of Lactobacillus spp. and Enterobacteriaceae were unaffected. The largest decrease in Bifidobacterium spp. numbers was linked to the administration of nucleic acid synthesis inhibitors (P = 0.004, 23-fold reduction). Microbiota profiling revealed a significant compositional change across nine genera following antibiotic therapy, including a relative increase in Lactobacillus spp. (P = 0.031), as well as a decrease in the number of genera identified in the antibiotic-treated subjects (n = 58), when compared with untreated subjects (n = 79). More alterations in the intestinal microbiota were observed post-nucleic acid synthesis inhibitor therapy, most notably a decrease in relative Faecalibacterium spp. numbers (P < 0.001).


The impact of antibiotic therapy on the intestinal microbiota in the elderly should be considered for long-term health effects, and differential susceptibility may require the development of products (e.g. prebiotics and probiotics) for at-risk subjects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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