Antibiotics must be used with caution especially in pediatrics and expectant mothers. The side effects of antibiotics could be serious in children and fetus.
There have been a number of studies pertaining to the downsides of antibiotics. A study which has been published in JAMA Pediatrics which revealed that the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics in children under 2 years old has been indicted for increased risk of obesity in early childhood.
The moment we were born our intestines starts getting colonized by a variety of bacteria. Evidence hints that different intestinal bacteria may affect the growth of the host differently.
One in three children and adolescents in the US are overweight or obese. This obesity is not the result of unhealthy eating habits in adolescents. It has been seen that by the age of 24 months 10% of the children are obese.
The common causes of early childhood obesity includes
- Maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI),
- Nutritional intake,
- Physical activity,
- Sleep duration
- Screen time.
Researchers have however started looking at another possibility, the effects which the colonies of microbes residing in the gut might have on early childhood obesity.
The intestinal flora is important for our health. Antibiotics can disturb the diversity and the composition of the gut dwelling bacteria. The researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PA studied the effects of antibiotic use in early childhood obesity.
Children who are prescribed antibiotics on four or more occasions are at risk. The study authors pored through the electronic health records from a network of primary care clinics for a period extending from 2001 to 2013. There were 64,580 children who had annual visits at a clinic and were in between the ages of 0-23 months, as well as one or more visits at ages 24-58 months. The study followed the baby until the age of 5 years.
69% of these children received antibiotics before they reached the age of 24 months which comes out to be about 2.3 antibiotic episodes per child. The researchers found that there was an increased risk of childhood obesity in those kids who had an early exposure to antibiotic.
However there has not been any association between narrow spectrum antibiotics and obesity. The obesity risk is seen only in the broad spectrum antibiotics. The study also laid bare the obesity in children across the study period-
- 2 years – 10% obesity, 23% overweight
- 3 years – 14% obesity, 30% overweight
- t 4 years – 15% obesity, 33% overweight
Of the study’s findings, the authors write: “Because obesity is a multifactorial condition, reducing prevalence depends on identifying and managing multiple risk factors whose individual effects may be small but modifiable. Our results suggest that the use of broad-spectrum outpatient antibiotics before age 24 months may be one such factor. This provides additional support for the adoption of treatment guidelines for common pediatric conditions that emphasize limiting antibiotic use to cases where efficacy is well demonstrated and preferring narrow-spectrum drugs in the absence of specific indications for broader coverage.”