A key strategy being used to tackle the global problem of antibiotic resistance is the control of antibiotic prescribing. If, as now seems likely, antibiotic overprescribing is also a causative factor in the rising levels of inflammatory diseases such as asthma, eczema, hay fever and so on, this provides a further argument why parents should be discourged from seeking antibiotic treatments for their children for minor infections, or for infections which are viral in origin.
This new IFH report reviews the epidemiological studies (more than 40) evaluating the possible link between antibiotic usage and the development, primarily of asthma, but also eczema, cow’s milk allergy and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Although there is still much concern and discussion that there may have been some overestimation of the association, due to confounding factors such as reverse causation, many or most workers now agree that there is strong evidence that antibiotic usage during pregnancy or the neonatal period, is a contributory factor in the development of these diseases, although the extent of this association is not clear, and certainly other factors are also involved.
A potential explanation for this effect is that broad spectrum antibiotics alter the gut microbiota, which in turn affect the maturing immune system in a way that promotes allergic disease development. This concept has its origins within the so-called “hygiene hypothesis. The latest, and more plausible, thinking about this concept is that particularly during early development, the human body requires exposure to a broad range of microbes, but that these are the largely non harmful microbes which make up the microbiota of our human (gut, skin, etc.), animal and natural environments. The IFH report also reviews animal studies, which increasingly support the concept of a link between early-life antibiotic use and development of allergic diseases and are beginning to reveal the mechanisms by which this can occur.
The report can be found at: http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/review/are-antibiotics-contributory-factor-rise-allergic-and-other-chronic-inflammatory-diseases