Combination of Probiotics and Breastfeeding Reduces Potential Antibiotic Resistance in Children - European Medical Journal

Combination of Probiotics and Breastfeeding Reduces Potential Antibiotic Resistance in Children

4 Mins

Geneva, Switzerland, 10 May, 2018

Targeted probiotic supplementation in breastfed infants can significantly reduce the potential for antibiotic resistance, new research presented today at the 51st ESPGHAN Annual Meeting shows.1  

Breastfed infants fed a specific probiotic strain of B. infantis had, on average, 87.5% less antibiotic resistance genes in their gut microbiome when compared with breastfed infants who had received lactation support alone. Thirty-eight antibiotic resistant genes were reduced in the supplemented infants, including genes associated with resistance to a wide range of drugs prescribed to treat respiratory, intestinal and urinary infections, chlamydia and acne.

Antibiotic resistance has been identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the biggest threats to global health2 and the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance gene carriage is a growing public health concern. Misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating this threat and a growing number of infections are becoming more difficult to treat as antibiotics become less effective. Members of the public frequently take antibiotics when they are not required to, with estimates suggesting that more than half of all the antibiotics taken by humans are not actually needed.3 They are often fed to livestock to boost food production and resistance can spread ‘vertically’ when new generations inherit antibiotic resistance genes.4

Dr Giorgio Casaburi, lead author of the research, comments, “These results demonstrate that targeted bacterial supplementation is capable of remodelling the ecology of the infant gut microbiome and therefore reduce antibiotic gene reservoirs in children. We found that supplementation with the infant gut symbiont significantly diminished both the abundance and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes”.

Dr Casaburi and his team assessed infants who, along with exclusive breastfeeding, received a supplementation of the probiotic for 21 days. After two weeks of supplementation, faecal samples were collected and compared with infants who had exclusively received breastmilk to evaluate the presence of antibiotic resistance genes.

The probiotic utilised in the research is uniquely adapted to thrive in the infant gut and is often missing from the microbiome of infants born in Europe and the US today. In the absence of this protective bacterium, other bacteria colonise the gut microbiome and enable the evolution, persistence and dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes.

“The supplementation offers a novel approach towards providing an alternative, safe and non-invasive method to decrease the number of genes that resist antibiotics in infants” added Dr Casaburi. “This is the first demonstration of significant remodelling of the infant gut microbiome. This modulation could help to reduce the burden and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes in current and future generations”.

Notes to Editors

For further information, or to speak to Dr Giorgio Casaburi, please contact Luke Paskins at [email protected] or James M. Butcher at [email protected] or call the ESPGHAN Communications Team on: +44 (0) 1444 811 099.

To view the abstract, click here.

To view an infographic on antibiotic resistance, click here.


The European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) is a multi-professional organisation whose aim is to promote the health of children with special attention to the gastrointestinal tract, liver and nutritional status, through knowledge creation, the dissemination of science based information, the promotion of best practice in the delivery of care and the provision of high quality education for paediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition professionals in Europe and beyond. Find out more by visiting

About the 51st Annual Meeting of ESPGHAN

The 51st Annual Meeting of ESPGHAN is taking place from Wednesday 9 to Saturday 12 May 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Every year the ESPGHAN meeting attracts the key opinion leaders in the field of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition from across Europe and all five continents, turning it into the largest conference of its kind worldwide. The Annual Meeting attracts over 4,500 experts from over 90 countries, all operating in the fields of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, turning it into the largest conference of its kind worldwide.


  1. Casaburi, G., et al. Targeted probiotic supplementation reduces antibiotic resistance gene carriage in breastfed infants. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Geneva, Switzerland, 10 May, 2018.
  2. World Health Organisation. 2018. Antibiotic Resistance. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 April 2018].
  3. World Health Organisation. 2016. Antibiotic Resistance Birth in a time of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 April 2018].
  4. APUA. 2014. General Background: About Antibiotic Resistance. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 April 2018].

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