Background: Antimicrobial exposure is a significant risk factor for the development of antibiotic-resistant organisms (ARO); however, the depth and duration of this impact is not well described. The study goal is to define impact of antibiotics on the gut microbiome of healthy volunteers (HVs). Methods: HVs were randomized to receive either 5 days of levofloxacin (LVX), azithromycin (AZM), cefpodoxime (CPD), or AZM + CPD (Fig. 1). Stool samples were collected at 15 time points per patient before, during, and after antibiotics. Remnant stool samples from the microbiology laboratory were collected from patients admitted to the medical intensive care unit (MICU) as a comparison of the microbiome in a critically ill state. DNA was extracted from samples and was submitted for shotgun sequencing. Relative abundance, resistome, and metabolic pathway abundance of bacterial taxa were determined and statistical analysis conducted in R software. Results: In total, 289 stool specimens from 20 HVs, and 26 remnant stool specimens were obtained from patients admitted from the MICU (Fig. 1). Community diversity and richness decreased in the first week post-ABX for all HVs (P < .01). Linear discriminant analysis identified Bacteroides and Clostridium as taxonomic groups enriched after CPD, while AZM and LVX produced a relative abundance increase in diverse Firmicutes spp. Longitudinal tracking confirmed that after all antibiotics except LVX, HV microbiomes lost species diversity and shifted toward a state similar to that observed in MICU patients (Fig. 2). The gut microbiome of most HVs exhibited resiliency and returned to a higher diversity level similar to their starting point; however, 10% of HVs did not. Moreover, antibiotic-specific increases in resistance markers reveal innate resistance to β-lactams and macrolides within the gut microbiome of the HVs. Finally, HV microbiomes, which shifted toward a MICU-like taxonomic state, also clustered with microbial metabolic profiles from MICU patients.
The HV microbial metabolic profiles were significantly enriched for important biosynthesis pathways producing chorismate and polysaccharides. MICU patient gut microbiomes were enriched for fatty acid regulation and quinolone biosynthesis, and for many degradation pathways important for different aspects of antibiotic resistance such as membrane integrity, alternative respiration, and antibiotic inactivation. Conclusions: Short courses of antibiotics can cause acute and chronic microbiome disruptions in HVs, as evidenced by decreased microbiome diversity and increases in specific innate resistance elements. These data support the need for antimicrobial stewardship to support rationale antibiotic use to prevent gut microbiome disruptions.
Funding: CDC BAA 200-2016-91962