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The human gut microbiota has been shown to be significantly perturbed by antibiotic use, while recovering to the pre-treatment state several weeks after short antibiotic exposure. The effects of antibiotics on the gut microbiota have however been mainly documented in high-income settings with lower levels of antibiotic resistance as compared to lower and middle income countries (LMIC). This study aimed to examine the long-term consequences of repeated exposure to commonly use antibiotics on the fecal microbiota of residents living in a low income setting with high prevalence of antibiotic resistance. Fecal samples from household individuals (n = 63) participating in a rural cohort in northern Vietnam were collected monthly for a period of 6 months. Using 16S V4 rRNA gene region amplicon sequencing and linear mixed-effects models analysis, we observed only a minor and transient effect of antibiotics on the microbial richness (ß = - 31.3, 95%CI = - 55.3, - 7.3, p = 0.011), while the microbial diversity was even less affected (ß = - 0.298, 95%CI - 0.686, 0.090, p = 0.132). Principal Component Analyses (PCA) did not reveal separation of samples into distinct microbiota-based clusters by antibiotics use, suggesting the microbiota composition was not affected by the antibiotics commonly used in this population. Additionally, the fecal microbial diversity of the subjects in our study cohort was lower when compared to that of healthy Dutch adults (median 3.95 (IQR 3.72-4.13) vs median 3.69 (IQR3.31-4.11), p = 0.028, despite the higher dietary fiber content in the Vietnamese as compared to western diet. Our findings support the hypothesis that frequent antibiotic exposure may push the microbiota to a different steady state that is less diverse but more resilient to disruption by subsequent antibiotic use.

Original publication





Scientific reports

Publication Date





Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Hanoi, Vietnam.


Humans, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Cohort Studies, Adult, Vietnam, Gastrointestinal Microbiome, Asians