2019 Bentley Lecture and Lunch: Dr. Benjamin Willing: Long-term immune and metabolic consequences of a disrupted early life microbiota
By: Samantha Tabert
Dr. Benjamin Willing, from the University of Alberta, enlightened us at the Bentley lunch and learn by discussing the long-term immune and metabolic consequences of a disrupted early life microbiota. Dr. Willing’s work mainly focuses on swine but he references human research as well. A key challenge facing microbiota includes animals that are free from germs having a poorly developed immune system and prove to be extremely susceptible to disease. Dr. Willing and his team looked at antibiotic’s effects on fresh piglets after referencing a study done on human babies given amoxicillin before 6 months of age. This study resulted in many negative effects, such as a correlation to obesity, later in life for the children. In a high overview, they exposed piglets to amoxicillin and found that antibiotics/microbial disruptions early in life have grand consequences on metabolic and immune function later in life.
By day 49 of Dr. Willing’s study, they found you could not tell a difference in the microbiome of the piglets treated verse nontreated after being exposed to amoxicillin. However, the health consequences of this early life microbiome disruption persisted despite this recovery. Dr. Willing stressed the significance of developing a healthy, animal specific, microbiome for proper immune development. Dr. Willing concluded that commensals, even in low abundance, can have a substantial impact on health.
Overall, the early life disruptions witnessed to the microbiota do play a substantial role in the metabolic function, immune function, and overall health of the animals.