Bifidobacterium infantis EVC001 probiotic may protect against antibiotic resistance in infants

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / tatyana_tomsickova
© Getty Images / tatyana_tomsickova
A new study by scientists from California-based Evolve Biosystems has found that feeding babies B. infantis EVC001 along with breast milk may lower the levels of antibiotic resistance genes in the infant gut microbiome by 90 percent.

Data published in the journal Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control​ also indicated that the probiotic strain – which is commercially known as Evivo baby probiotic – led to the near  elimination of bacteria such as Escherichia, Clostridium​ and Staphylococcus​.

The study is said to be the first time that a probiotic has been demonstrated to suppress the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria that harbor the genes responsible for antibiotic resistance.

“Feeding ​B. infantis EVC001 to babies is the first effective approach shown to decrease antibiotic resistance genes in the infant gut microbiome,”​ said Dr Giorgio Casaburi, PhD, author of the study and senior bioinformatics scientist at Evolve BioSystems.

“Our data further support recent studies that link breastfeeding to a reduction of antibiotic resistance in infants, as we show here that ​B. infantis works directly with human breast milk to reduce the abundance of pathogens that carry antibiotic resistance genes in the infant gut.”

Antibiotic resistant genes

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over two million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States every year, and 200,000 infants die globally each year as a result.

Bacteria with genes responsible for antibiotic resistance can be acquired early in life and are often already present in infant stool by the first month of life.

Commenting independently on the study’s findings, Jae Kim, MD, neonatologist specializing in gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition and co-author of Best Medicine: Human Milk in the NICU​, stated: “Even in scenarios for optimal health where babies are born vaginally, full-term and are breastfed, we're still seeing an increase in antibiotic resistance​.

“Pathogens that harbor antibiotic resistance genes and cause infection can become very hard to treat. However, this particular probiotic bacterium uses a unique mechanism allowing it to create an inhospitable environment for these pathogens. The data clearly show a substantial improvement in the gut microbiome with B. infantis EVC001 in infants who are normally thought of as the healthiest.”

Study details

Dr Casaburi and his co-workers recruited 60 healthy, exclusively breastfed infants and randomly fed half of them B. infantis​ EVC001 for 21 days.

Using shotgun metagenomics to analyze stool samples, the researchers found that the group fed B. infantis​ EVC001 had a 90% reduction of antibiotic resistance genes, which was largely driven by a reduction in Escherichia, Clostridium​ and Staphylococcus​.

E. coli​ isolated from the infants in this study were shown to be resistant to a broad range of antibiotics.

“Colonization of the gut of breastfed infants by a single strain of ​B. longum subsp. ​infantis had a profound impact on the fecal metagenome, including a reduction in ARGs [antibiotic resistant genes],” ​wrote the authors.

“This highlights the importance of developing novel approaches to limit the spread of these genes among clinically relevant bacteria. Future studies are needed to determine whether colonization with ​B. infantis EVC001 decreases the incidence of AR [antibiotic-resistant] infections in breastfed infants.”

Baby happy © Getty Images RodicaCiorba
© Getty Images / RodicaCiorba

According to Evolve Biosystems, B. infantis​ used to dominate the guts of babies born in developed countries, and still dominates those of babies in developing countries where allergies and autoimmune disorders are far less prevalent.

B. infantis​ crowds out pathogenic bacteria in the gut and has been shown to digest human milk oligosaccharides in breast milk that babies are otherwise incapable of processing, improving gut barrier function, reducing intestinal permeability, and downregulating gut inflammation.

Source: Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control
Volume 8, Article number: 131 (2019), doi: 10.1186/s13756-019-0583-6
“Early-life gut microbiome modulation reduces the abundance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria”
Authors: G. Casaburi et al.

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