FEB 19, 2020 9:32 PM PST

Antibiotics Linked to Birth Defects in Pregnant Women

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Pregnant women prescribed macrolide antibiotics during the first trimester of pregnancy place their children at an increased risk of major birth defects in comparison with penicillin. A recent study calls for the cautionary use of these drugs.

"Macrolide antibiotics are used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections, and are among the most frequently prescribed antibiotics during pregnancy in Western countries,” said lead author and PhD candidate, Heng Fan of UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health.

The study was focused on assessing the association between macrolides and major malformations at birth such as heart, genital defects, and neurodevelopmental disorders (cerebral palsy, epilepsy, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder).

"This work builds on previous evidence of rare but serious adverse outcomes of macrolide use, especially for unborn babies. These adverse outcomes were assumed to be associated with the arrhythmic effect of macrolides and policy advice about their use in pregnancy varies,” added Feng. “If the associations are shown to be causal, these findings suggest that an additional four children would be born with cardiovascular malformations for every 1,000 children exposed to macrolides instead of penicillins in the first trimester of pregnancy."

To come to major findings, researchers analyzed data from 104,605 children born in the UK from 1990 to 2016 using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) mothers were prescribed macrolides or penicillins before pregnancy, and 53,735 children who were siblings of children in the study group acted as control (comparison) cohorts.

"Our findings suggest it would be better to avoid macrolides during pregnancy if alternative antibiotics can be used,” notes Professor Ruth Gilbert (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health). "Women should not stop taking antibiotics when needed, as untreated infections are a greater risk to the unborn baby."

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
BS/MS
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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