22 November 2023

Resistance of pathogens to antibiotics has been linked to vitamin deficiencies

Canadian scientists have identified a link between a deficiency of beneficial micronutrients in the body at an early age and antibiotic resistance in more mature years. The study was conducted on mice, however, experts believe that it may shed light on one of the reasons for the growth of antibiotic resistance in humans, which is now observed around the world.

The problem of resistance of pathogenic microorganisms to antibiotics is associated with excessive use of the latter. Scientists from the University of British Columbia (Canada) decided to approach the problem from a different angle and studied how the lack of essential micronutrients (vitamin A, B12, folic acid, iron and zinc) affects the community of bacteria, viruses and fungi living in the digestive tract of mice. The findings are presented in the journal Nature Microbiology.

According to scientists, there are approximately 340 million children under the age of five worldwide who are deficient in various micronutrients that not only affect body growth, but also significantly alter the gut microbiome. The most interesting thing is that due to insufficient intake of nutrients into the body, such children are often prescribed antibiotics.

Ironically, the gut microbiome may have increased drug resistance due to micronutrient deficiencies. This was shown in a study on mice. Some of the young animals were intentionally restricted in the intake of zinc, folic acid, iron, vitamins A and B12, while the other part of the animals received a normal diet. Then the scientists conducted metagenomic sequencing of fecal samples of mice. It allowed them to identify which types of microorganisms and in what quantities were found in the intestines of rodents during the experiment.

It turned out that mice that suffered from multiple macronutrient deficiencies in childhood had a significantly altered gut microbiome in adulthood. Compared to the control group, these animals exhibited elevated levels of antibiotic-resistant pathogenic bacteria and fungi, even though these mice were never exposed to the antibiotics themselves. In addition, nutrient deficiencies in the experimental animals correlated with increased occurrence of individual genes and a set of genes associated with antibiotic resistance.

The authors of the paper concluded that the stress faced by bacteria in the gut microbiome when vitamin deficiencies occur is a key reason for the reorganization of bacterial diversity within the body, even in the absence of any familiarity with antibiotics in principle. This may shed light on the reasons for the high prevalence of the antibiotic resistance problem in poor countries, where patients often lack access to many antibiotics.

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