Animal Study Links Antibiotic Use to Type 1 Diabetes

A new animal study found that overuse of antibiotics may predispose people to type 1 diabetes. Though preliminary, the research found an association between gut bacteria, antibiotic use and susceptibility to diabetes.

antibiotics and type 1 diabetesAntibiotics may trigger an autoimmune response that interferes with the production of insulin-producing cells.

Type 1 diabetes is on the rise, especially in toddlers and preschoolers, suggesting that something early in life is affecting their autoimmune response and predisposing them to diabetes. Several studies have found that the intestinal bacteria—the microbiota—in children with type 1 diabetes is less diverse and stable and has fewer “good” bacteria.1

The current study, published in the Nature Group's ISME Journal, looked at factors contributing to the onset of diabetes in mice. Researchers from the University of British Columbia exposed mice to antibiotics and evaluated their microbiota as well as their diabetes status. They discovered that the mice exposed to antibiotics developed type 1 diabetes faster than mice that weren’t exposed. The mice that developed diabetes had more harmful and less beneficial bacteria. They also found an altered immune response in mice exposed to antibiotics, which led to the destruction of insulin producing cells.

“These researchers have documented that animals with a genetic predisposition to weight gain, when treated with antibiotics that disrupt the normal gut flora, develop metabolic derangements,” says DiabeticLifetyle Advisory Board Member J. Michael Gonzalez-Campoy, MD, PhD, medical director of the Minnesota Center for Obesity, Metabolism and Endocrinology, who did not participate in the study. “Changes in the gut biome are now known to be associated with many of the diseases we treat in adults. Antibiotic use is one of the things that changes the gut biome.” 

The study supports prior research that has looked at the connection between diabetes and antibiotics. One recent study found that young children who have taken antibiotics are more likely to develop prediabetes in adolescence. In that study, researchers analyzed fecal samples of 10 adolescents with prediabetes and 14 healthy controls. Teens with prediabetes reported taking antibiotics over three times a year up until the age of three, compared to the control group, which was 8.5 times less likely to have taken antibiotics by that age.2

Antibiotic overuse continues to be an issue in this country. According to a new study published in JAMA, at least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the United States are unnecessary.

The next steps are to identify which bacteria induce or perhaps protect against type 1 diabetes. This, in turn, could help with the production of more specific antibiotics.

“Without a doubt, it is an exciting new area of medicine that holds promise to decrease the risk of the development of diabetes, to reverse diabetes, and to treat obesity, says Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy.


Updated on: August 27, 2018
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