Clinical Health Updates

Antibiotics in first year of life associated with later asthma

Clinical Question:
Does the early use of antibiotics increase a child’s risk of developing asthma later in life?

Bottom Line:
Antibiotic use in early life was associated with the development of childhood asthma, a risk that may be reduced by avoiding the use of BS cephalosporins.

Kozyrskyj AL, Ernst P, Becker AB. Increased risk of childhood asthma from antibiotic use in early life. Chest 2007;131:1753-1759.

Study Design:
Cohort (retrospective)

To address the major methodological issues of reverse causation and selection bias in epidemiologic studies of antibiotic use in early life and the development of asthma, The authors undertook a cohort study of this association in a complete population of children. Using the health-care and prescription databases of Manitoba, Canada, this longitudinal study assessed the association between antibiotic prescription use during the first year of life and asthma at age 7 years in a 1995 birth cohort of 13,116 children. Independent of well-known asthma risk factors, asthma was significantly more likely to develop in children who had received antibiotics in the first year of life at age 7 years. The association with asthma was observed for antibiotic use in non-respiratory tract infections (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.86; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.02 to 3.37). The risk of asthma was highest in children receiving more than four courses of antibiotics (adjusted OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.14 to 1.88), especially among rural children, and in the absence of maternal asthma or a dog in the birth year. Broad-spectrum (BS) cephalosporin use was more common in these subpopulations of children.