A Netherlands study found patients who are given antibiotics in early childhood may have an increased chance of developing hay fever and eczema later in life, according to an online CBS news report.
Scientists from Utrecht University looked at large medical databases and found links between antibiotics taken from infancy to age 2 and risk of eczema and allergic rhinitis in adulthood. Their findings were presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, which met in London in early September.
“They analyzed data from 44 studies including more than 650,000 patients with one or both conditions,” the news report stated. “They found that the risk of eczema increased between 15% and 41% in people who’d been exposed to antibiotics before the age of 2. The risk of hay fever in later life increased even more, with different studies showing it rose between 14% and 56% in those who’d taken antibiotics.”
Researchers noted stronger conditions for those treated with two courses of antibiotics, but which came first— the chicken or the egg— is the question that still needs answering.
“We don’t know if the allergic disease caused [an] increased amount of infections needing antibiotics, or if the antibiotics contributed to a change in the microbiome which may have influenced the development of allergic disease,” Carla Davis, MD, director of the food allergy program at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, said in the CBS report. “Both of those explanations are plausible.”
According to the European Lung Foundation, which reported on the not yet published study, “a total of 22 studies (including 394,517 patients) were selected to study the risk of eczema and 22 studies (including 256,609 patients) to study the risk of hay fever, with some of these being the same (12 studies including 64,638 patients) studies for both conditions.”
About one in three children has a moderate to severe case of eczema, according to the National Eczema Association. There are 31.6 million people with eczema in the U.S., and at least 17.8 million of them have moderate to severe eczema or atopic dermatitis.
“A recent study found that the prevalence of eczema in adults could be as high as 10.2%, which suggests that most children with eczema/atopic dermatitis continue to be affected even in adulthood,” the NEA website stated.
Forty million to 80 million people suffer from allergic rhinitis in the U.S., according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. “Allergic rhinitis, like skin rashes and other allergies, develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment that typically causes no problem in most people,” according to the college’s website.
Referencing a JAMA study, the CDC reported in May that 30% of the 154 million prescriptions doctors write annually for antibiotics are unnecessary.
“Setting a national target to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in outpatient settings is a critical first step to improve antibiotic use and protect patients,” Lauri Hicks, DO, director of the Office of Antibiotic Stewardship in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC, and commander in the U.S. Public Health Service, said in the article.
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