Michigan State University researcher awarded grant to study effects of antibiotic use during pregnancy

Sarah Comstock, assistant professor in the MSU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, is the recipient of a $70,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation.

Sarah Comstock

Sarah Comstock, assistant professor in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, is the recipient of a $70,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation to study how antibiotic use during pregnancy can affect antibiotic resistance in mothers and their infants.

Antibiotics are commonly used to treat pregnant women and infants. Heavy use or use of specific antibiotics during pregnancy increases the abundance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes, and therefore the risk for incurable infections.

The research will determine if some antibiotic exposures cause more resistance to appear and persist in mother/infant pairs than other antibiotic exposures. Medical providers will be able to use this information to choose antibiotics and/or treatment regimens that minimize the risk of antibiotic resistance during critical stages of life.

“Antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing human health problems of our time,” Comstock said. “This grant will enable us to understand the scope of the antibiotic resistance problem in the population of pregnant women and infants in the state of Michigan.”

The project is the continuation of research started from a grant from the Child Health Advances from Research with Mothers Coalition. It is also supported through funds from Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO), a nationwide research program from the National Institutes of Health that investigates how exposure to various environmental factors affect health and development in children’s and adolescents. The MSU ECHO project is led by Dr. Nigel Paneth, a professor of pediatrics, epidemiology and biostatistics within the College of Human Medicine.

Comstock’s team has collected biospecimens from pregnant women and their infants and continued access to new samples from participants to test the extent and impact of antibiotic exposures on AMR genes. Participants were recruited from three birth cohorts during pregnancy/gestation and will be followed through early infancy.

The research project also includes:

“I am especially excited because this collaboration includes two primary researchers at the Michigan State University main campus in East Lansing, as well as clinical partners affiliated with MSU and ones associated with two separate health systems: Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and Sparrow Health in Lansing,” Comstock said.

“This breadth of expertise is pivotal to the success of the project, and we would not have been able to foster these collaborations without funding and support from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation.”

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