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Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 8;7:43662. doi: 10.1038/srep43662.

Low-dose penicillin exposure in early life decreases Th17 and the susceptibility to DSS colitis in mice through gut microbiota modification.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Key Laboratory of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Ministry of Health, Shanghai Inflammatory Bowel Disease Research Center, Renji Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao-Tong University, Shanghai Institute of Digestive Disease, 145 Middle Shandong Road, Shanghai 200001, China.


Antibiotic exposure in early life can lead to a significant change of the gut microbiota and may contribute to later onset of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, the relationship between early-life antibiotic treatment and IBD is ambiguous, according to contradicting results of epidemiologic studies. In the present study, we demonstrated that low-dose penicillin pre-treatment had a unique protective effect against mouse colitis induced by dextran sodium sulfate (DSS). Low-dose penicillin also suppressed the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-17 in various intestinal tissues, and decreased the amount of Th17 cells in small-intestine lamina propria. Neither metronidazole nor enrofloxacin had a similar effect. We further confirmed that low-dose penicillin could cause specific changes of the gut microbiota, especially the eradication of segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB). Mice without SFB inoculation showed no disparity when treated with penicillin or water. Taken together, the results showed that low-dose penicillin can achieve a highly specific manipulation of sensitive bacteria and interfere with development of intestinal immune system in early life. The study may further indicate the possibility of achieving a favorable immune state among a certain group of patients with IBD, or other autoimmune diseases, by fine-tuning the gut microbiota.

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