Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.3389/fped.2023.1112812; PMCID: PMC9971631


While prompt initiation of antibiotics at birth due to concerns for early onset sepsis is common, it often leads to many preterm infants being exposed to treatment despite negative blood cultures. Such exposure to early antibiotics can impact the developing gut microbiome putting infants at increased risk of several diseases. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating inflammatory bowel disease that affects preterm infants, is among the most widely studied neonatal disease that has been linked to early antibiotics. While some studies have demonstrated an increased risk of NEC, other studies have demonstrated seemingly contrary findings of decreased NEC with early antibiotics. Studies using animal models have also yielded differing findings of benefit vs. harm of early antibiotic exposure on subsequent NEC susceptibility. We thus sought to conduct this narrative review to help clarify the relationship between early antibiotics exposure and future risk of NEC in preterm infants. Our objectives are to: (1) summarize findings from human and animal studies that investigated the relationship between early antibiotics and NEC, (2) highlight important limitations of these studies, (3) explore potential mechanisms that can explain why early antibiotics may increase or decrease NEC risk, and (4) identify future directions for research.

Journal Title

Front Pediatr



First Page


Last Page



antibiotic stewardship; antibiotics; gut dysbiosis; intestinal microbiome; necrotizing entercolitis; postnatal intestinal adaptation; prematurity


Grant support

This study was supported by K08DK125735 (AC), R01HD097578 (MM), R01DK117296 (VS), and institutional funds from Children's Mercy Hospital (VS, AC). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Publisher's Link:

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