The human microbiome is the collection of the trillions of naturally occurring microbes that exist on and within the human body. Established during a critical period of development in the first two years of life, the healthy microbiome performs many functions essential to the maintenance of human health.
The structure and composition of the microbiome is susceptible to the influence of environmental and chemical factors, which can cause changes that have the potential to be harmful in both the short and long term. Antibiotic treatments, for example, have produced significant microbiome disruptions in adults that have been associated with subsequent infections. In an era where antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance has become a global priority, better understanding of the impact of these drugs is essential to improving healthcare outcomes. Of particular importance is the impact of antibiotic use on the microbiome of infants. In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), antibiotics are among the most heavily used medications. However, inadequate research and data limits the ability to discern the impact of antibiotic use on the microbiome of this vulnerable population during a critical period of development.
Michelle Science at SickKids in collaboration with Bryan Coburn from the University Health Network are utilizing Ontario Genomics’ SPARK program to address this critical knowledge gap. They will examine how antibiotic treatment affects the microbiome in neonates and establish whether these changes are associated with short-term consequences. The results of this study will provide important information that will guide decision-making and prescribing practices for infants and neonates in health care facilities, with the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes.