Chest infections, not antibiotics make babies wheeze

August 4th, 2008 - 4:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 4 (IANS) Chest infections, rather than administering antibiotics to babies within first three months of birth, cause wheezing among them a year later, according to the latest study on the subject. The study led by Julian Crane, director, Wellington Asthma Research Group, relied on approximately 1,000 children from Wellington and Christchurch from birth through to four years.

The team collected data on chest infections and antibiotic exposure at three months, 15 months and then yearly until four years of age.

The study allowed more accurate analysis of clinical cause and effect, compared to previous cross-sectional studies which only look at a sample of children at one particular point in time.

Analysis showed that by the time the children had reached 15 months nearly three quarters had been given antibiotics. In addition 11.8 percent had asthma, 39.6 percent had eczema and 21.2 percent had a recurring itchy scaly rash. The question is, can these health effects be linked to antibiotic use?

“Our results strongly suggest that the reason that some children who’ve been given antibiotics appear to develop asthma is because they had a chest infection and the symptoms of the chest infection in young children can be confused with the start of asthma.

“Antibiotics are then given to treat this respiratory condition, which may or may not be asthma, and are not a cause as has been previously suggested,” said Crane.

“However our study still leaves open the possibility that antibiotics have something to do with the development of eczema and itchy skin by four years, and allergic hypersensitivity by 15 months.”

The theory is that asthma has increased in line with antibiotic use over the last 40 years. The contention has been that antibiotics reduce exposure to bacterial infection and may alter the normally healthy bacteria in the gut. In turn this may facilitate the development of allergy and asthma.

These findings have been published in the August edition of Clinical and Experimental Allergy.

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