Use of Antibiotics Increases Risk of Developing Asthma in Children

Bronchial Asthma in children is a respiratory disorder which manifests as difficulty in breathing most commonly as a reaction to an exogenous allergen like pollen. Wheezing is typically observed in physical examination of the child. Asthma is often relieved with beta agonists such as Salbutamol through nebulization and maintained through the use of steroids such as Fluticasone.

In a recent biochemical science research, the risk of developing asthma in children by the age of 11 years old is increased twofold if the child has been treated with antibiotics before they turn 1. Scientists say that these patients tend to be more vulnerable to certain viral infections when they have taken antibiotics in their early life, contributing to the development of asthma.

Although previous studies support this theory, current researches have concluded that it is not the use of antibiotics itself which causes the propensity to develop the asthma, but the immune system weakness which the antibiotics have caused.

A study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal used data from 1,000 11 year old children who were studied since they were born. The researchers from the United Kingdom found that these children who were diagnosed to have asthma have been shown to lack signaling molecules which are integral parts of the immune system against viral infections such as the common colds.

The biomedical engineering research was done by extracting blood samples from the subjects and comparing their respective immune reactions to certain pathogens such as virus and bacteria. The results between those who were treated with antibiotics in the first year of their life were compared to those who were not. Biomedical engineering researchers concluded that the group who were treated with antibiotics during their early childhood has increased risk of developing asthma and have severe symptoms which may result to hospitalizations. The results also geared towards causation by viral agents rather than bacteria.

Professor Adnan Custovic, from the University of Manchester, lead biomedical engineering researcher, stated that genetic mutations in the chromosomal region 17q21 and impaired antiviral immunity both contribute to the likelihood of developing asthma and acquiring viral infections. Although the findings seem to be conclusive and substantial, Custovic pointed out the need for further studies and researches to confirm the presence of weak immune defenses during early childhood.

The children in the study are participants of the Manchester Asthma and Allergy Study (MAAS), which focuses on identifying possible factors and conditions which may serve as triggers for allergic reactions.

Professor Seif Shaheen, Lung specialist, from the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary, University of London stated that although the topic has been the focus of several epidemiologic studies in the past, more recent studies on biomedical science innovations have concluded that the association between antibiotic use and severe asthma symptoms may stem from the fact that children who have had viral respiratory infections during childhood may have been treated with antibiotics. This early infection may eventually develop to bronchial asthma in early childhood. This shows, Shaheen says, that the development of asthma is not directly associated with antibiotic use per se, but is directly affected by the ability and strength of the child’s immune system to fight the respiratory diseases, which in turn may be related to their genetic makeup.

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