Antibiotic use during pregnancy – a link to childhood asthma?

Children whose mothers took antibiotics while they were pregnant were slightly more likely than other kids to develop asthma in a new Danish study…

Antibiotics in pregnancy tied to asthma in kids

“We speculate that mothers’ use of antibiotics changes the balance of natural bacteria, which is transmitted to the newborn, and that such unbalanced bacteria in early life impact on the immune maturation in the newborn,” said Dr. Hans Bisgaard, one of the authors of the study and a professor at the University of Copenhagen. Those effects on the immune system could lead to asthma later on, although it’s still not clear how, said Anita Kozyrskyj, a professor at the University of Alberta…

Previous research has linked antibiotics taken during infancy to a higher risk of asthma, although some researchers have disputed those findings.

To look for effects starting at an even earlier point in a baby’s development, Bisgaard and his colleagues gathered information from a Danish national birth database of more than 30,000 children born between 1997 and 2003 and followed for five years….Bisgaard’s team calculated that the children who had been exposed to antibiotics were 17 percent more likely to be hospitalized for asthma. Similarly, these children were also 18  percent more likely to have been given a prescription for an asthma medication than kids whose mothers did not take antibiotics when they were pregnant, according to findings published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

While the actual causes of asthma remain largely unknown, according to National Jewish Health, the #1 respiratory hospital in the country, it is widely accepted that asthma is inherited. A cautionary note to all women: This new observational study provided no evidence that pregnant women should avoid antibiotics to prevent asthma in their child.

An example of those researchers mentioned in today’s news story who question a link between antibiotic usage during pregnancy and the risk of childhood asthma are the authors of a systematic review published last year in Pediatrics. In examining all research published since 1950 that assessed correlations between antibiotic exposure during pregnanay or the first year of  life and childhood asthma, they found a pooled odds ratio of 52%, but studies that adjusted for respiratory infections showed a correlation of 16%. Retrospective studies, they noted, had the highest estimates and reported significant relationships, but prospective studies did not. The authors concluded that such a link “remains tentative” because reverse causality and protopathic bias were observed in those “methodologically less secure studies.”

6 responses to “Antibiotic use during pregnancy – a link to childhood asthma?

  1. Wow, sick people take medicine. What a shocker.

  2. The cause of childhood asthma list keeps expanding. It was kids live in a cleaner environment. Then it was childhood doses of acetaminophen. Do we add this one to the causes or just admit that we don’t know the cause of increased childhood asthma? Or is the increase an increase in diagnosis?

  3. And I thought asthma was caused by phthalates. Silly me.

  4. pthalates are not so good at causing asthma. They are really good at causing hysteria. The cure for hysteria though often comes from a potentially pthalate containing device.

  5. (with apologies to Woody Guthrie)
    Dig and I dig and dig and dig
    Dig diggy dig dig dig a dig
    Dig diggy diggy dig dig
    And I dig my life away-o
    And I dig my life away

    Correlation is hard to find
    Correlation is hard to find
    Down in the data and down in the mine
    And I dig my life away-o
    And I dig my life away

    Perfect lie is hard to find
    Perfect lie is hard to find
    Down in the surveys and slime
    And I dig my life away-o
    And I dig my life away

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