Acid-reducing drugs for children increase C. diff infection risks, researchers say

Infants and young children who take acid-reducing medications are at a substantially higher risk of developing a Clostridium difficile infection, according to research out of Columbia University Medical Center recently published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

"There's no question that acid-reducing medications alleviate heartburn in adults, but there's little evidence of benefit in healthy infants and younger children," said Daniel E. Freedberg, MD, assistant professor of medicine at CUMC and the study's lead author. "Given our findings about the risk involved, pediatricians may hesitate before prescribing these drugs unless there is evidence of acid-related disease."

Dr. Freedberg and the other researchers looked at the health records of children in The Health Improvement Network, using data collected from 1995 to 2004. They identified 650 outpatients who were diagnosed with C. diff, and then they compared each patient's use of proton pump inhibitors and use of a common acid-reducing medication with that of five age- and sex-matched controls who did not have C. diff.

They found that 2.6 percent of the children with C. diff had used PPIs or the acid-reducing medication, compared with just 0.3 percent of the controls.

Based on the findings, the researchers suspect that acid-reducing drugs could increase C. diff infection by altering the gastrointestinal microbiome, similar to antibiotics.

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