Asthma Risk Up With Early Antibiotic Use

Asthma Risk Up With Early Antibiotic Use

Asthma prevalence has doubled in developed countries over the last 30 years and the concurrent increase in children’s antibiotic use has led to speculation of a possible causal relationship.

Kids treated with antibiotics before their first birthday have an increased risk of asthma, researchers reported.


Studies have demonstrated a link between maternal antibiotic use during pregnancy or early childhood antibiotic use and increased risk of the child developing asthma.When babies are given antibiotics, their risk of developing asthma by age 6 may increase by 50 percent. This relationship between antibiotic use in babies less than six months old and risk of developing asthma was documented in a study conducted by Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) researcher Kari Risnes.


Researchers say, it may be difficult to diagnose asthma in small children; new asthma symptoms can often be misinterpreted as a respiratory infection. As such, many children may have received antibiotics for the “infection,” which is actually asthma, and the antibiotics are then suspected to have caused the asthma when later discovered.


Some types of antibiotics may alter the gut biology of young children for up to two years after they have taken them, according to a study of Finnish children.

Study looked at long-term use of antibiotics and gut microbiome in children aged 2-7Antibiotics used for respiratory infections changed composition of gut flora. Use of these antibiotics correlated with increased body weight and risk of asthma in the children.

The use of these antibiotics, known as macrolides, was also associated with an increased risk of developing asthma and becoming overweight, reported a group of researchers in the journal Nature Communications.

The association doesn’t prove that antibiotic use causes asthma, they cautioned, since it could also be true that some other factor causes both asthma and the need for antibiotics.

But the finding is sufficiently strong that doctors should be careful when prescribing antibiotics for infants, they argued.

They say that results from previous studies linking increased use of antibiotics and a concurring increase in childhood asthma should be called into question.

For one, they say, it may be difficult to diagnose asthma in small children; new asthma symptoms can often be misinterpreted as a respiratory infection. As such, many children may have received antibiotics for the “infection,” which is actually asthma, and the antibiotics are then suspected to have caused the asthma when later discovered.

Furthermore, they note that respiratory infections could themselves increase asthma risks, whether or not they are treated with antibiotics.

But even more importantly, the researchers say that previous studies have not sufficiently examined shared risk factors within families that could increase asthma risks, including genetics, home environment and lifestyle.

As such, the team studied almost half a million children born in Sweden between January 2006 and December 2010. They add that theirs is the first study to use sibling control analyses to examine the link between antibiotics and asthma.

Link vanished after comparing children from same family:

The researchers first studied the children who had been exposed to antibiotics in utero, when their mothers took antibiotics during pregnancy. From this initial analysis, the researchers found that the risk of asthma in the child increased by 28%.

However, when the team included risk factors such as genetics, home environment or lifestyle – carried out by conducting comparative analyses within families with multiple children – they found that the link between antibiotics during pregnancy and asthma vanished.

The researchers say there were a large number of families where one sibling had asthma and another did not develop asthma, despite exposure to antibiotics in early life. The number of these families was large enough that the researchers were able to rule out a link between antibiotic use during pregnancy and asthma in offspring.

Commenting on their findings, Anne Oertqvist, physician and doctoral student at Karolinska Institutet, says:

Still important to use antibiotics very carefully’
They conclude their study by writing, “it is of great importance to acknowledge that though antibiotics might not cause asthma, careful consideration is required as to whether respiratory symptoms should be treated with them.”

Medical News Today recently reported on findings that suggested antibiotic use in children is linked to juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

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Source : medicalnewstoday