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Impact of antibiotic exposure during early life on the rates of all-cause diarrhoea in children

Posted:  Thursday, September 01, 2016

Influence of early life antibiotic exposure on the rates of all-cause diarrhoea in children

Antibiotics are commonly administered to treat childhood illnesses. However, they may have a negative influence on the gastrointestinal microbiota which increases the risk of infections. A prospective observational birth cohort study published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal investigated the impact of antibiotic exposure during early life on the rates of all-cause diarrhoea in children up to 3 years of age.

For the study, 465 infants were enrolled and followed up until three years of age. Information on occurrence, duration and hospitalisation of all illnesses, and severity and treatment of diarrhoea were collected. Information on exclusive, nonexclusive and no breastfeeding was documented once every two weeks until breastfeeding was stopped.

Exposure to at least one course of antibiotics in the first 6 months of life was observed among 267 children. Infants exposed to antibiotics in the first 6 months of life had 33% higher incidence rates of diarrhoea compared to those who were not exposed to antibiotics. There was no increase in the diarrhoeal rates among infants who were exclusively breastfed until 6 months of age. Infants who were not exclusively breastfed until 6 months of age had 48% higher incidence rates of diarrhoea. The increase in rates of diarrhoea after 6 months of age was similar among children who were exposed to antibiotics for diarrhoeal and non-diarrhoeal illnesses.

This study lacked information on the duration of antibiotic exposures and the use of antibiotics obtained outside the study clinic for non-diarrhoeal illnesses. The study highlighted the association between antibiotic exposures during early life and increased rates of diarrhoea in children up to 3 years of age. Exclusive breastfeeding may be protective against the negative effects of antibiotics.

News source - Rogawski ET, Westreich D, Becker-Dreps S et al. The effect of early life antibiotic exposures on diarrheal rates among young children in Vellore, India. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2015 Jun; 34(6):583–8.