Children’s Bowel Disease Linked to Antibiotic Overuse

Children’s bowel disease is being linked to antibiotic overuse, according to a new study of antibiotics and children with inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD.

The research revealed that being treated with antibiotics at a young age was linked to increased risks for IBD, said WebMD. IBD includes an array of serious intestinal disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which involve symptoms such as diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and abdominal cramps.

IBD rates in children have doubled in the past ten years. “We need to be judicious in our use of antibiotics,” researcher Matthew P. Kronman, MD, of Seattle Children’s Hospital’s division of infectious diseases, told WebMD. “Antibiotics should be used when needed. But too many children are still getting them for conditions like the common cold, where they do no good.”

The study, which followed more that one million children, is the largest of its kind to suggest that increased antibiotic use may have some part in the increases being seen in pediatric IBD cases, said WebMD. Close to 750 of the children followed were diagnosed with IBD; the children are enrolled in a health registry in the U.K.

Children treated with antibiotics before their first birthday were more than five times likelier to develop IBD than children who were never treated with antibiotics. Also, said WebMD, the study found that use of antibiotics in older children and teenagers was associated with increased IBD risks. The more antibiotics prescribed during childhood and adolescence, the greater the risk.

Researcher Theoklis E. Zaoutis, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia told WebMD that the findings add to prior evidence that antibiotic use may cause IBD; the findings do not prove the link. In the United States alone, some 29 million antibiotic prescriptions are written for children every year.

Ilseung Cho, MD, of NYU Langone Medical Center also told WebMD that the study confirms that caution should be used when prescribing antibiotics. “Both physicians and parents are at fault for the overuse of antibiotics,” he said. “Antibiotics are very beneficial drugs, but it is important to be prudent about how we use them.”

The researchers said the study suggests that some 1,700 pediatric IBD cases are associated with antibiotic use every year. The study appears online today and in the October issue of Pediatrics.

We routinely discuss the dangers of antibiotic misuse and overuse, and how these practices are directly linked to antibiotic resistant diseases that can wreak havoc on the body and increase widespread drug resistance.

Antibiotic overuse and misuse encourage bacteria to remain—while killing off good bacteria—growing more and more resistant. This has enabled, and continues to enable, bacteria to outsmart antibiotics and to survive, thrive, and strengthen so that existing drugs are powerless against their eradication.

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