Antibiotic therapies are important in combating disease-causing microorganisms and maintaining host health. It is widely accepted that exposure of the gut microbiota to antibiotics can lead to decreased susceptibility and the development of multi-drug-resistant disease-causing organisms, which can be a major clinical problem. It is also important to consider that antibiotics not only target pathogenic bacteria in the gut, but also can have damaging effects on the ecology of commensal species. This can reduce intrinsic colonization resistance and contribute to problems with antibiotic resistance, including lateral transfer of resistance genes. Our knowledge of the impact of antibiotic treatment on the ecology of the normal microbiota has been increased by recent advances in molecular methods and use of in vitro model systems to investigate the impact of antibiotics on the biodiversity of gut populations and the spread of antibiotic resistance. These highlight the need for more detailed structural and functional information on the long-term antibiotic-associated alterations in the gut microbiome, and spread of antibiotic resistance genes. This will be crucial for the development of strategies, such as targeted therapeutics, probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics, to prevent perturbations in the gut microbiota, the restoration of beneficial species and improvements in host health.