Pregnant women taking antibiotics leave babies at risk of asthma

A new Danish study has emerged that shows potential dangers to children if their mothers take antibiotics during pregnancy, with these children possibly more likely to develop asthma in comparison to children whose mothers did not take any antibiotics when expecting.

The researchers state that results they have gathered from their study are not 100% definitive in proving that antibiotics were completely responsible for the apparent increased asthma risk. However their data does back-up an already known theory that the body’s own ‘friendly’ bacteria play an important role in whether or not a child develops asthma, with antibiotics seemingly sabotaging these good bacteria.

Dr. Hans Bisgaard, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, was one of a few authors of the study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics. He said: “We speculate that mothers’ use of antibiotics changes the balance of natural bacteria, which is transmitted to the new-born, and that such unbalanced bacteria in early life impact on the immune maturation in the new-born.”

Anita Kozyrskyj, a professor at the University of Alberta, has also conducted her own studies trying to ascertain asthma and antibiotic links, and she believes it is these effects on the immune system could end up leading to a development of asthma later on, although she is still trying to work out exactly how.

Although there have been arguments against the findings, previous research has suggested that those children who are given antibiotics during the first six months of their life are at a 52% more risk of developing asthma and allergies by the time they are 6 years old.

Dr Bisgaard and his colleagues however decided to focus their research on the effects of antibiotics earlier than infancy. To do this they obtained information from a Danish national birth database comprising of over 30,000 children who were born sometime between 1997 and 2003. The team’s follow-up analysis spanned for a total of five years.

It was discovered that approximately a quarter of the children (7,300), had mothers who had taken antibiotics during their pregnancy. Of these children, just over 3% had been admitted to hospital for their asthma prior to the age of five.

In total, it was found that 581 (2.5%) of the approximate 23,000 children not exposed to antibiotics, had been admitted to hospital for asthma.

Dr Bisgaard and his team then looked at other possible risk factors for asthma and managed to calculate that the children that had been exposed to antibiotics whilst in the womb were around 17% more likely to require hospital treatment for asthma conditions.

Also it was calculated that those children with mothers who had taken antibiotics during pregnancy were 18% more likely to have been issued a prescription for asthma medicine such as Ventolin for example, compared to kids whose mothers did not take antibiotics when they were pregnant.

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