Parents exposed to antibiotics may pass down weaker immune system to offspring

Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

A new study found that the first generation of parent zebra fish, who were exposed to antibiotics, had a weakened defense against bacteria compared to the prior generation, suggesting that antibiotics may have negative effects on future generations of organisms.

The study, published in was conducted by researchers the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark. The study aimed to determine whether antibiotics taken by a parent can affect their offspring. To do so, scientists exposed zebrafish to a common antibiotic known as chlortetracycline (CTC). The concentration of CTC was similar to levels found in the natural environment.  Scientists then observed the immune system of the CTC exposed zebrafish’s offspring.

The study’s results showed that the offspring of CTC exposed zebrafish had weakened immune systems compared to the previous generation. The offspring’s antibacterial defense was weaker, and they had few immune cells than their parents’ generation. When researchers analyzed the third generation of zebrafish, they found their immune systems were also weaker than the first generation’s.

This study found that CTC may weaken the immune systems of future generations of organisms. These results suggest that as the concentration of antibiotics found in the environment increases, the immune systems of organisms may be negatively impacted, leading to population hazards and a threat to the ecological balance of the natural environment.

According to the study, as more antibiotics are being prescribed to humans, not only are more humans building a resistance to them, causing common infections to become life-threatening, but also higher concentrations of antibiotics are found in nature, which may negatively affect the environment and the organisms living in it.