| Kerry Sheridan |
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Kids who get treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics before age two face a higher risk of childhood obesity, said a US study on Monday.
The research in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics is the latest to find a link between weight problems and antibiotics, which can eliminate bacterial infections but also the beneficial intestinal microflora that colonises the gut.
Experts at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia looked at health records from nearly 65,000 children who were treated at primary care clinics from 2001 to 2013.
Those included in the study were followed for five years.
More than two thirds of the kids studied were exposed to antibiotics before age two.
The increase in obesity risk ranged from two to 20 per cent and was seen particularly in children who had been treated with antibiotics four or more times by age two.
Those given broad-spectrum antibiotics, which target a range of bacteria, were also at higher risk of weight problems in childhood.
“No association was seen between obesity and narrow-spectrum antibiotics,” said the study, which described the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics in children under two as “one factor” in whether a child develops obesity.
The study called for treatment guidelines for common pediatric illnesses that urge limits on antibiotic use and a preference for narrow-spectrum medications.
Inappropriate prescribing and overuse of such broad-spectrum antibiotics have also been linked to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria strains.
In recent years, US health authorities have urged doctors to cut back on antibiotic prescribing, and have also attempted to educate parents that common viruses cannot be cured with antibiotics.
“This study offers another solid reason to more carefully consider the reasons for antibiotic use and avoid it whenever possible,” said Patricia Vuguin, a pediatric endocrinologist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.