Babies given antibiotics before six-months ‘have a higher asthma risk’
By Daily Mail Reporter
Babies given antibiotics before the age of six months are up to 70 per cent more likely to develop asthma later in childhood, according to a study.
Researchers found infants treated with the drugs faced a 40 per cent rise in risk of the incurable condition if they were prescribed a single course of treatment in the first few months of life.
But the dangers increased by 70 per cent if they were given a second batch of drugs for hard-to-treat infections.
The findings from Yale University scientists, are the latest in a series of studies linking commonly used medicines with childhood asthma.
But experts have been divided over whether the drugs really are to blame, or whether the children studied would probably have developed asthma anyway.
In the latest investigation, however, scientists concluded there is a strong link, even after allowing for other factors that might explain why some children go on to get asthma, such as a family history of the disease.
Around 1.1 million children in the UK suffer with asthma and the country has some of the highest rates of the disease in the world, especially among young teenagers.
In childhood, boys are more likely to be affected than girls. However, more girls tend to develop it during their teenage years.
Numerous studies have hinted that early use of antibiotics could be partly to blame.
Many young children are given the drugs to get rid of chest infections. Cynics have argued that these infections may be a sign that asthma has already set in and that antibiotics are not to blame at all.
Others have argued a family history of the disease is more likely to be the cause.
The Yale team studied 1,400 children to see if early antiobiotic use led to higher asthma cases by the age of six.
They specifically targeted babies prescribed the drugs before six months of age for infections other than chest-related problems.
They also included children born to parents with no history of asthma themselves.
The results, due to be published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, showed a big increase in risk, even if the children had never had chest infections and did not come from an asthmatic family.
In a report on their findings, the Yale researchers blamed the drugs for upsettting the balance of protective microbes in a baby’s gut which help to ward off illness in the early stages of life.
‘Very early microbial exposure, particularly in the intestinal tract, seems necessary for a mature and balanced immune system in childhood.
‘Antibiotic use, especially broad spectrum antibiotics, may alter microbial flora in the gut, thereby causing imbalances in the immune system and a poor allergic response.’
Research leader Dr Kari Risnes said: ‘The findings from our study should encourage doctors to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use, especially in low-risk children.’