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Infants Given Antibiotics at Risk for Allergy

Excerpt by Megan Rauscher, Reuters Health

Treating infants with antibiotics seems to increase their risk of developing childhood diseases like eczema and allergic asthma, a new study suggests.

There are conflicting reports on whether exposure to antibiotics in infancy raises the risk of allergies and asthma. The latest findings were presented Tuesday at the European Respiratory Society's annual conference in Vienna by Dr. Christine Cole Johnson, a senior research epidemiologist for Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan.

Her team reviewed the medical records of 445 children participating in an HMO-based study in the Detroit area. Almost half of the children had been treated with an antibiotic in the first 6 months of life. The children were followed for the development of allergic conditions until age 6 and 7 when they were evaluated by an allergist.

Children who had been treated with an antibiotic were 1.5 times more likely to have allergies and 2.5 times more likely to have allergic asthma by the age of 7, compared with children not given antibiotics in infancy.

The link between early antibiotic exposure and the development of allergy and asthma was stronger in children whose mothers had similar conditions, and among children who did not have pets in the home.

This finding on household pets supports the "hygiene hypothesis," which holds that early exposure in life to bacterial infection and bacterial products prevents the development of allergic disease. Early antibiotic use may influence the gastrointestinal tract and alter the development of the maturing immune system.

"You are exposed to a lot of bacteria when you have pets around. For kids that are in a so-called sterile environment, antibiotics may be more of a risk factor," Johnson explained.

"Interestingly," she said, the link between early antibiotic use and atopy was also stronger among children who had been breast fed for four months or longer. "The jury is out on whether breast-feeding is good or bad regarding allergies," Johnson said.

The current study supports the ongoing trend to limit the use of antibiotics. "Infants that do require antibiotics might be monitored for allergies and asthma," she added.


Reference Source 89

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