Antibiotics during labour – the long-term effects

Posted 13 Dec 2019

Can administering antibiotics to all mothers during delivery reduce the prevalence of infections which cause infant mortality?

Or is the potential benefit of these antibiotics negated by long-term consequences of antibiotic resistance?

That’s what Flinders University researcher Dr Steven Taylor is hoping to weigh up with the help of a Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant.

Every year, more than 2.6 million babies die in their first month of life, with bacterial infections in developing countries a leading cause

Where bacterial infections are prevalent, antibiotics given to the mother during delivery can provide a major benefit.

Dr Taylor will analyse data from a large trial being carried out in Fiji in partnership with Murdoch Children’s Research Institute called “Bulabula MaPei” (“wellness mother and baby”) which is exploring the impact of prophylaxis antibiotic azithromycin on infant infections. In Fiji the rates of baby skin infections are among the highest in the world.

However, antibiotic use increases rates of antibiotic resistance, which is a major threat to modern medicine.

Antibiotics also affect normal bacterial flora (the microbiome) which, in babies, is crucial for healthy development, and antibiotic-directed disruption may lead to the increased risk of developing diseases such as diabetes and asthma.

Dr Taylor’s work will measure effects in the trial and identify long-term implications of this treatment to enable more informed decisions about the application of antibiotics.

While antibiotics have the potential to have a major impact on infant infections, I want to make sure this isn’t at the expense of healthy long-term development.

Project title: Defining the impact of antibiotic prophylaxis during labour using advanced metagenomics: Deriving pilot data using a large randomised controlled trial.

Lead researcher: Dr Steven Taylor


Keep up to date

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive information on our latest news and events