Taking Antibiotics During Pregnancy May Increase Childhood Asthma

11/25/2012

Childhood asthma photo

If your immune system is fighting a losing battle against a bacteria, antibiotics can successfully kill the bacterial cells without doing damage to the cells themselves. But in damaging and killing the bad bacteria in the body they also kill the good bacteria. This phenomenon may lead to a higher risk of childhood asthma if mom takes antibiotics during pregnancy. 

Reuters reports on a Danish study that found kids whose parents took antibiotics during pregnancy were slightly more likely to have kids with asthma.

Antibiotics and Asthma

"We speculate that [the] mothers' use of antibiotics changes the balance of natural bacteria, which is transmitted to the newborn, and that such unbalanced bacteria in early life impact on the immune maturation in the newborn," said Dr. Hans Bisgaard, one of the authors of the study and a professor at the University of Copenhagen, on Reuters.

The impact of antibiotics on the immune system could lead to asthma but researchers are only speculating why. Researchers gathered information from a Danish national birth database of more than 30,000 kids born between 1997 and 2003 and followed them for five years. 

Of the children, 7,300 were exposed to antibiotics during pregnancy and 238 were hospitalized with asthma by age 5. After taking into account asthma risk factors, children exposed to antibiotics were 17 percent more likely to be hospitalized with asthma. 

According to Reuters:

In an email to Reuters Health, Bisgaard said he expected to see a higher risk of asthma 'because the mother is a prime source of early bacterial colonization of the child, and antibiotics may (have) disturbed her normal bacterial flora.'

This research isn’t saying that mothers should avoid taking antibiotics completely because some infections are incredibly dangerous to the fetus, rather, it’s just the beginnings of gaining a better understanding of the way asthma develops in the body and how it relates to the immune system. 

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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