Research Insight – Childhood Antibiotic Linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Children who received antibiotics in the first year of life had a 550% increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) compared with those who were never exposed, according to a retrospective cohort study of more than 1 million children.

The antibiotics included in this study are penicillin, amoxicillin, ampicillin, penicillin/b-lactamase inhibitor combinations, tetracyclines, clindamycin, metronidazole, cefoxitin, carbapenems, and oral vancomycin.

The study suggests that reduction in childhood antibiotic use may have the potential to help curb the rising incidence of childhood IBD.

IBD is a catch-all term for a group of serious intestinal conditions that include Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Common symptoms of these lifelong conditions include abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

Many unanswered questions remain, however, such as whether specific difficult-to-culture organisms could play roles in either IBD pathogenesis or protection against IBD, and whether alteration of flora through antibiotic exposure alters the immune system directly.

This work further confirms the strong contribution of the gut microbiome towards the development of disease and suggests that perturbations of the gut microbiome at an early stage in life when the immune system is still developing may have an impact on disease incidence several years later.

This study highlights the importance of judicial use of antibiotics, especially in young infants and children at higher risk for developing [IBD] such as those with a strong family history of IBD. It adds yet another depth to the potential risk of using antimicrobial therapy in infants and children.


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