Wheezing and asthma may be enhanced by broad spectrum antibiotics used in early childhood

One of the mechanisms supposed to explain the increasing prevalence of asthma, among children in particular, is the use
of antibiotics because they may modify natural microbial exposure and development of the immune system in early
childhood. The aim of this study is to investigate the association between the use of various classes of antibiotics
(penicillin, cephalosporin and macrolide derivatives) in early childhood and the medical diagnosis of asthma or wheezing reported by mothers over the follow-up after adjustment for potential confounders and respiratory infections. In a population-based sample of 5-year-olds, a part of the ongoing birth cohort study, the standardized interviews on health outcomes, potential confounders (child’s gender, maternal atopy, parity, prenatal and postnatal environmental tobacco smoke) and the use of antibiotics were gathered from mothers of 310 children. While the overall use of antibiotics during the early childhood was insignificantly associated with asthma (adjusted OR = 1.65, 95%CI: 0.93 – 2.93), the risk estimates were significant both for macrolide antibiotics (adjusted OR=2.14, 95%CI: 1.16–3.95) and cephalosporins (OR=1.98, 95%CI: 1.14–3.37). The significant excess in IRR (incident risk ratio) of wheezing episodes was related only to the use of macrolide antibiotics (adjusted IRR=1.91, 95%CI: 1.12–3.27). The use of other classes of antibiotics was found not to be associated with the medical diagnosis of asthma or wheezing episodes recorded in the study period. Conclusion: as early childhood use of broad spectrum antibiotics is associated with an increased risk of developing asthma in 5-year-olds, it may be hypothesized that the antibiotic- related suppression of allergic inflammatory responses in the course of treatment may later lead to greater than before atopic immune response in Th2 children or an impairment of Th1 immune responses in early childhood.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons