Health Care

Higher infection risk for kids whose mothers took antibiotics during pregnancy

Higher infection risk for kids whose mothers took antibiotics during pregnancy”

Children born to mothers who were prescribed antibiotics during pregnancy have a 20% higher risk of subsequently being hospitalised with infection, a joint Australian-Danish study has found.

But researchers stressed the findings needed to be interpreted with caution.

About one in five women in the study were prescribed antibiotics.

The increased risk of infection reportedly persisted throughout childhood, Scimex reported. In Australia, 12% of pregnant women are prescribed antibiotics.

Professor David Burgner, from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, conducted the study, which looked at data from more than 750,000 pregnancies from 1997 to 2009 in Denmark.

"The message to women would be, don't take antibiotics if you don't need them, question the doctor about whether it's a bacterial infection, but don't avoid them if you really need them".

The scientists note that infection is a leading cause of childhood illness and death around the world, but only 20 to 30% of children (in industrialised countries) become sick enough to require hospitalisation, even though the causes of their illness are likely pathogens that colonise most kids.

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"But it's highly plausible that antibiotics could change the mother's bacteria".

In general, however, the study further illuminates the critical role of maternal microbiomes in kick-starting the gut flora of babies.

Professor Burgner said the findings suggest taking antibiotics while pregnant may have longer-term consequences for both mothers and babies.

Those whose mothers who took antibiotics while pregnant and had vaginal births were at a greater risk of infection than those delivered by caesarean section.

University of Queensland Senior Research Chemist doctor Mark Blaskovich says, the results shouldn't deter pregnant women from taking antibiotics if necessary.

"Antibiotics have saved millions of lives". "This could increase susceptibility to infection, especially in early childhood, possibly by a sub-optimal immune development", she wrote in the study, released today in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

He said while the increased risk was not large, it illustrated there could be unintended and potentially long-term consequences with antibiotic use.

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