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A new study has highlighted a potentially important link between greater use of antibiotics in children and an elevated risk of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
The US research, from New Jersey's Rutgers University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Nemours/Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware, used data from the UK to analyse the link between antibiotic usage and arthritis risk in children.
It is known that antibiotics, despite their therapeutic benefits, can have the side effect of disrupting health and essential microbial communities within the body, putting people at a greater risk of chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis in adults.
This new study drew data from The Health Improvement Network (THIN), a database with information on more than 11 million people across the UK, and identified a sample of 450,000 children. Of these, 152 were diagnosed with JIA.
According to data published in the journal Pediatrics, children who received prescriptions for antibiotics had an increased risk for developing juvenile arthritis, even after adjusting for other autoimmune conditions and previous infection.
Youngsters prescribed antibiotics had twice the risk of developing arthritis compared to children the same age who were not, with the danger increasing among those prescribed more courses of antibiotics. The risk was strongest within one year of receiving the therapy.
Upper respiratory tract infections treated with antibiotics were more strongly associated with juvenile arthritis than untreated upper respiratory tract infections. It was also noted that this link was unique to antibacterial agents, rather than antiviral and antifungal drugs.
Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and a senior author on the study, said: "This is an extremely important clue about the etiology of this serious and potentially crippling disease. If confirmed, it also provides a means for preventing it."
A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK commented: "These findings may lead clinicians to consider the advisability of unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics in children. This research also further highlights the role of the microbiome in the development of autoimmune diseases.
"This is an area of research in which we are currently investing, as we explore in more detail the complex relationship between the gut and its role in certain forms of arthritis."
Pediatrics is the general medicine of childhood. Because of the developmental processes (psychological and physical) of childhood, the involvement of parents, and the social management of conditions at home and at school, pediatrics is a specialty. With ...
Arthritis is by definition the inflammation of one or more joints, characterized by swelling, pain, warmth, redness and diminished range of joint movement (Oxford Medical Dictionary). There are many different types; Noninflammatory; Osteoarthritis, N...