Low dose antibiotic ingestion potentiates systemic and microbiome changes induced by silver nanoparticles
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Changes in the mammalian gut microbiome are linked to the impairment of immunological function and numerous other pathologies. Antimicrobial silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are incorporated into numerous consumer products (e.g., clothing, cosmetics, food packaging), which may directly impact the gut microbiome through ingestion. The human health impact of chronic AgNP ingestion is still uncertain, but evidence from exposure to other antimicrobials provides a strong rationale to assess AgNP effects on organ function, immunity, metabolism, and gut-associated microbiota. To investigate this, mice were gavaged daily for 5 weeks with saline, AgNPs, antibiotics (ciprofloxacin and metronidazole), or AgNPs combined with antibiotics. Animals were weighed daily, assessed for glucose tolerance, organ function, tissue and blood cytokine and leukocyte levels. At the end of the study, we used 16S rDNA amplicon and whole-metagenome shotgun sequencing to assess changes in the gut microbiome. In mice exposed to both AgNPs and antibiotics, silver was found in the stomach, and small and large intestines, but negligible amounts were present in other organs examined. Mice exposed to AgNPs alone showed minimal tissue silver levels. Antibiotics, but not AgNPs, altered glucose metabolism. Mice given AgNPs and antibiotics together demonstrated slower weight gain, reduced peripheral lymphocytes, and elevated splenic, but not circulatory markers of inflammation. 16S rDNA profiling of cecum and feces and metagenomic sequencing of fecal DNA demonstrated that combined AgNP-antibiotic treatment also significantly altered the structure and function of the gut microbiota, including depletion of the indicator species Akkermansia muciniphila. This study provides evidence for possible biological effects from repeated ingestion of AgNP-containing consumer products when antibiotics are also being used and raises concern that an impaired gut microbiome (e.g., through antibiotic use) can potentiate the harm from chemical exposures such as AgNPs.