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Penicillin, discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, is known as perhaps one of the most beneficial and extraordinary findings in medical/biological history. This new found drug helped virtually eliminate some of the most harmful bacterial infections that humans had endured for centuries, and led the way for new medical innovations. The antibiotic kills the bacteria through a unique process we learned in class earlier this year. This process occurs by the first introduction of the antibiotic to the bacteria. Once the antibiotic comes into contact with the bacteria, it naturally targets the destruction of the cell wall. With the cell wall being a necessary component for the bacterial to live, the bacteria will die once the antibiotic breaks down the cell wall. This interesting process does not affect human cells because they lack a cell wall, making them immune to the antibiotic, as well as making the antibiotic such a efficient medicine to cure infection in humans. Despite all these great aspects of antibiotics, it is now being found that antibiotic use in early age children is connected with childhood obesity, a large and growing problem that faces today’s youth.
With this new found problem, researchers are now looking to find the correlation between general antibiotic use (such as Penicillin) and weight gain. One of the main examples of where this is observed is in animals that are used in agriculture; using antibiotics being a method that has been used for ten’s of years to increase animal size. Despite its common use, it was still unclear as to exactly why doses of antibiotics would promote animal growth. With children that are now being seen to experience early childhood obesity in correlation to early antibiotic use, researchers have started conducting studies and experiments to test this phenomenon.
Scientists have started experiments in which they treat recently born mice with doses of penicillin and compare growth results and stomach bacteria to untreated mice. The results they found were that the treated mice grew to be larger in size and had a significantly decreased amount of the bacteria lactobacillus, in comparison to the control group. Along with this, scientists found that the bacteria Candidatus and Allobaculum were noticeably suppressed in the experimental group. This further proves the link between antibiotic use and weight gain; however what is the exact link? From these experiments scientist know that the link is due to microbes that have been impacted directly by these antibiotics. And with the developmental aspect, researchers have data that strongly suggests that microbes directly impact the development of the metabolism in early age animals. These implications negatively impact the metabolic rate of the organism, which in effect increases the fat build up in the organism.
Despite all of the research being conducted on the topic, researchers’ have yet to found the exact reason that antibiotics’ effect on stomach microbes negatively influences a young organism’s metabolism. With this being the case, it is perhaps best for humans to limit their intake of antibiotics in their early years, however antibiotics are in many occasions necessary to cure and prevent infection in children. This poses an interesting dynamic for the future which will be difficult to solve until we have all the scientific answers.