Early life effects of human milk oligosaccharides and prebiotics on antibiotic associated gut microbiota changes and health


Background: Antibiotics have been linked to both short- and long-term perturbations of the developing infant gut microbiota and may profoundly impact health and disease throughout life. Early life therefore provides a window of threat, but also of opportunity, to steer the gut microbiota towards a more beneficial and resilient state with prebiotics.
Approach: Using unique data from the KOALA Birth Cohort Study, we will assess the influence of antibiotic exposure on gut microbial composition and function of infants (1 month) and children (6-7 years), how this influence is modified by intake of human milk oligosaccharides and dietary prebiotics, and the association with childhood gastro-intestinal, cardiometabolic, and immune health. The TNO large-intestinal model (TIM-2) will be used to examine to what extent intake of specific prebiotics, before and during antibiotic administration, can improve resilience of the infant gut microbiota. Microbiome analyses will include composition (16S rRNA gene) and function (metabolites, metagenome, metatranscriptome) at the community and strain level.
Impact: Effects of exposure to antibiotics early-in-life continue into adulthood. Beneficial effects of simple prebiotic interventions in that critical period will therefore greatly impact society, both in terms of health and health care costs. Results of this study can be used to further improve the composition of infant nutrition, and to understand early life effects of specific prebiotics currently available. Increased understanding of the underlying mechanisms will furthermore stimulate the development of novel prebiotics with antibiotic-mitigating properties that will also benefit the livestock sector, providing solutions in the spirit of the OneHealth philosophy.


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. ir. I.C.W. Arts

Affiliated with

Maastricht University, Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology (MaCSBio)

Team members

D.J.M. Barnett


01/09/2018 to 01/02/2022