Repeated antibiotic courses can alter childhood development, study shows

Not only can overuse of common antibiotics contribute to the growing level of antibiotic resistance, it can also have a significant effect on childhood development, according to a recent study published in Nature Communications.

Researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City tested the use of common antibiotics on mice to see the effects multiple rounds of antibiotics could have on human children. To do so, they gave mice three short courses of amoxicillin, tylosin (which is not given to human children but mimics a common antibiotic class, macrolides), or a mixture of both. A control group of mice received no antibiotics at all.

They found that female mice treated with the antibiotics gained more weight and developed larger bones than untreated mice. Both drugs also disrupted the mice's gut microbiome.

While the researchers cautioned that the study was limited to mice, they believe its findings point to the fact that children exposed to antibiotics early in life can bare the effects in their development.

According to a study author, the average child in the U.S. receives 10 courses of antibiotics by the time they turn 10.

"We've been using antibiotics as if there was no biological cost," said Martin Blaser, MD, the study's senior author. But the study results show that use of these drugs in children could predispose them to obesity and have other effects.

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