Researchers from Mayo Clinic have found a link between children aged two and under taking antibiotics and an increased risk for various conditions, including ADHD, allergies, and obesity.
For the study, the researchers examined data from over 14,500 children from the Rochester Epidemiology Project. The children were born between January 1st, 2003, and December 31st, 2011. Around 70% had received at least one treatment of antibiotics for illness before the age of two.
In the end, the researchers found that early exposure to antibiotics was linked to a higher risk for a range of conditions. These included childhood-onset asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, celiac disease, overweightedness, obesity, and ADHD. The development of different disorders seemed to be linked to the number, type, and timing of exposure to antibiotics. Furthermore, they found that children exposed to the drugs were more likely to have a combination of conditions.
The researchers speculate that the reason for this correlation may be linked to the microbiome, which is particularly sensitive in infants. While the effects of antibiotics may be transient, they say that the drugs may have long-term negative effects on health nevertheless.
“We want to emphasize that this study shows association ― not causation ― of these conditions,” says Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D., senior author if the study. “These findings offer the opportunity to target future research to determine more reliable and safer approaches to timing, dosing, and types of antibiotics for children in this age group.”
The researchers hope their findings will go on to inform guidelines for physicians on the safest way to administer antibiotics early in life. This comes especially given recent increases in the incidence of some of the childhood conditions mentioned in the study- although early antibiotic usage has not been established as direct causation.