There is increasing concern about potential long-term effects of antibiotics on children’s health. Epidemiological studies have revealed that early-life antibiotic exposure can increase the risk of developing immune and metabolic diseases, and rodent studies have shown that administration of high doses of antibiotics has long-term effects on brain neurochemistry and behaviour. Here we investigate whether low-dose penicillin in late pregnancy and early postnatal life induces long-term effects in the offspring of mice. We find that penicillin has lasting effects in both sexes on gut microbiota, increases cytokine expression in frontal cortex, modifies blood–brain barrier integrity and alters behaviour. The antibiotic-treated mice exhibit impaired anxiety-like and social behaviours, and display aggression. Concurrent supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1 prevents some of these alterations. These results warrant further studies on the potential role of early-life antibiotic use in the development of neuropsychiatric disorders, and the possible attenuation of these by beneficial bacteria.
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