Antibiotics are a type of medication given to people of any age suffering from a bacterial infection. It was first discovered about 90 years ago with the accidental discovery of penicillin which was used to treat people in the war. Nowadays, there are hundreds of antibiotics used by individuals of all ages, from babies to the elderly. It is generally agreed that the risks associated with antibiotic use are related to a change in one’s gut microbiome, which over time can heal. This said, researchers at Mayo Clinic Proceedings have recently identified an association between antibiotics administered to children aged two and younger, and an increased risk of metabolic diseases (obesity and being overweight), immunological diseases (asthma, food allergies, and hay fever), and cognitive conditions/disorders (ADHD and autism).
Researchers conducted a retrospective case study using health records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a population-based research collaboration in Minnesota and Wisconsin. They analyzed 14,500 children with about 70% of the children have received at least one treatment with antibiotics for illness before the age of 2. The analysis showed that children that received multiple antibiotic treatments were more likely to have multiple illnesses or conditions later in childhood.
Additionally, there were differences between boys and girls, and also that the type and frequency of illness varied depending on age, type of medication, dose, and the number of doses of antibiotics prescribed. Cephalosporins, a large family of antibiotics that work like penicillin by inhibiting bacterial cell wall synthesis were found to be associated with the most risk for multiple diseases, and unique autism and food allergies. These findings lead researchers to the hypothesis that antibiotics may not only transiently affect the microbiome but also cause long-term health consequences in children. However, it should be noted that the study shows an association between antibiotic use and long-term health conditions, not that the effect of antibiotics on the microbiome leads to these conditions.
Although the study demonstrates an increase in some of the childhood conditions, experts are still unsure as to why or how exactly these reactions come about. Other than multidrug resistance, antibiotics are believed to be safe by scientists and doctors globally. Researchers from this study say that the ultimate goal is to provide practical guidelines for physicians on the safest way to prescribe and use antibiotics in early life.
Original Source: “Association of Infant Antibiotic Exposure with Childhood Health Outcomes” by Nathan LeBrasseur et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings
Online Link: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0025619620307850
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