Taking antibiotics early in life may alter immunity later: study
University of British Columbia study finds taking antibiotics early in life may increase risk of getting specific diseases down the road.
Published Monday, August 18, 2014 2:15PM EDT
Taking antibiotics early in life can increase the risk of contracting specific diseases down the road, according to a new University of British Columbia study.
The study, published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, helps scientists understand how different antibiotics affect good bacteria.
Lead researcher and medical genetics professor Kelly McNagny emphasized that most bacteria in the stomach are good for us, but antibiotics usually don't discriminate between good and bad bacteria.
McNagny told CTVNews.ca it's possible that not only will some antibiotics make it more likely to get a disease later in life, but the reactions can be more severe.
But "if we can identify what bacteria are protective we might be able to find the ones to give to kids who don't have them," he told CTVNews.ca.
"Probiotics could be the next big trend in parenting because once you know which bacteria prevent disease, you can make sure that children get inoculated with those bacteria," McNagny said in a statement. "This is the first step to understanding which bacteria are absolutely necessary to develop a healthy immune system later in life."
The researchers tested two antibiotics, vancomycin and streptomycin, on newborn mice. They found vanomycin had no effect, but streptomycin increased the risk of hypersensitivity pneumonitis later in life. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is an allergic disease from being exposed to dust.
The study was also conducted by UBC professor Brett Finlay and students Shannon Russell and Matt Gold.
McNagny stresses infants should be treated with antibiotics when necessary, but hopes this is a step in being able to pinpoint which bacteria make us less susceptible to disease.
"I think antibiotics are life-saving drugs, but I think over-prescribing them is not a good thing," he said. "If you are going to have a course of antibiotics maybe there is a course of probiotics that we can give you."
McNagny doesn't recommend parents rush out and start giving their kids probiotics because there haven't been any good studies done in that area. His next step isto see if the bacteria in children correlate with bacteria in mice.