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antibiotics

A recent study conducted by researchers the University of Southern Denmark found that zebra fish that were exposed to antibiotics had offspring with reduced defences against viruses and bacteria compared to the parent generation. This suggests that antibiotics may have negative effects on future generations.

The goal of the study was to determine whether antibiotics taken by a parent can affect their offspring. Zebrafish were exposed to a common antibiotic at concentrations similar to that found in the environment.  

Compared to the previous generation, the offspring of antibiotic-exposed zebrafish had weaker immune systems. This was also true when only one parent had the antibiotic exposure. The offspring had fewer immune cells and overall, weaker antibacterial defence, compared to their parents’ generation. This was passed on to successive generations – even the third generation had weaker immune system than that of their parents and grandparents’.

We can see that the young generations, i.e., the offspring, are less effective at fighting bacteria and in general have a weaker immune system than the parent generation

Elvis Genbo Xu,

Assistant Professor, University of Southern Denmark

Antibiotics and Infection Risk

It is already well known the prolonged or repeated use of drugs that fight bacteria increases the susceptibility to, and severity of subsequent infections, and is closely related to the development of antibiotic resistance.

The research findings implied that antibiotic exposure may have unwanted effects for several generations.

Traces of antibiotics are often found in wastewater, groundwater, surface water, and even bottled water and are thus difficult to completely avoid. As the concentration of antibiotics found in the environment increases, immune systems may be negatively impacted, leading a threat to the ecological balance of the natural environment.

According to the study, as more antibiotics are being prescribed to humans, not only are more humans building a resistance to them, causing common infections to become life-threatening, but also higher concentrations of antibiotics are found in nature, which may negatively affect the environment and the organisms living in it.

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Reference: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2022, 56, 7, 4251–426 https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c07343