The Times did a write up on two recent studies of malnourished children in Malawi. One of the studies (out of Jeff Gordon’s lab) characterizes the gut microbiome of healthy and malnourished children, the effect of intervention with therapeutic foods, and –the Jeff Gordon special — puts the bacteria from the malnourished and healthy children in gnotobiotic mice for in vivo analysis.
The other study, published in the NEJM, demonstrates that the administration of antibiotics lessens mortality associated with malnutrition.
Judging by the comments on the Times write up, the studies are going to stir up a lot public discussion about the appropriate use of antibiotics (some of the comments are quite scathing). Sadly, the Gordon lab didn’t analyze the gut composition of the groups that were administered antibiotics — so we don’t know how that treatment in combination with therapeutic food altered the gut microbiota — but even so, the studies should raise interest in determining the mechanism by which antibiotics cause weight gain.