Antibiotics can be vital to treating illness, both in children and adults. But they can have an effect on gut bacteria, which scientists are learning is connected to other aspects of the immune system. A new study suggests that antibiotic use during childhood is further linked to a risk of developing inflammatory diseases.

Previous studies have already established that, while antibiotics work to eradicate bad bacteria, they also unfortunately take out the healthy bacteria your body needs. Now, new research from Monash University in Australia has found a disturbing connection effect of childhood antibiotic use: It alters the development of gut bacteria and creates an increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease and other inflammatory diseases like asthma and multiple sclerosis.

While scientists are just beginning to learn about the connection between gut bacteria and immune health, the good news is that these newly assessed risks were also found to be reversible. “Our study demonstrates that gut bacteria in early life do affect disease development in adulthood, but this response can be changed,” said Colby Zaph, Head, Laboratory of Mucosal Immunity and Inflammation, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Biomedical Sciences at Monash University. “This has important ramifications for the use of pre- and probiotics, the administration of antibiotics to neonates, and our understanding of how gut bacteria play a critical role in influencing the development of inflammatory diseases such as IBD.”

Does this study have you concerned about antibiotics? Share your thoughts in the comments.