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Antibiotics in the First Year of Life Increase Risk of Asthma

From a March 13, 2006, Reuters Health release comes a report that children who are given antibiotics early in life increase their chance of asthma later. This finding is from a study by Dr. Carlo A. Marra and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver published in the medical journal Chest. The study also suggests that the more antibiotics were used on a child, the higher the risk of asthma.

Dr. Marra's group reviewed and combined data from seven studies analyzing the possible relationship between children who received antibiotics in the first year of life and those who did not. These studies included 12,082 children of whom 1817 had developed asthma. The data showed that the children who had received antibiotics in the first year of life were twice as likely to develop asthma as those who did not receive antibiotics.

In an interview with WebMD, Dr. Marra stated, "Antibiotic exposure during the first year of life does appear to be a risk factor for the development of childhood asthma, but because of limitations in the studies we reviewed we have to conclude that bigger and better studies are still needed."

Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergy expert and professor of medicine at the State University of New York seemed to agree with these findings as he stated, "With the immune system, we're finding we may need to expose ourselves to bacteria and other endotoxins to boost or have our immune systems develop normally."

Dr. Marra concluded, "This is the best evidence we have right now, and the best evidence that we have looks like there is potentially an association. People should not be prescribing antibiotics unless they're really necessary."