Contrary to what several other studies have shown, the results of a nationwide study of Danish children suggest that antibiotic use does not affect the development of Type 1 diabetes.
The proposed mechanism for the association is that early antibiotic use affects the gut microflora, which in turn influences the gut immune system. Dysfunction in this immune system is thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of Type 1 diabetes.
“Research hinting at a potential association between antibiotic use in childhood and immunologic health is accumulating,” study authors Drs. Anders Hviid and Henrik Svanstrom, from Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, comment. However, the studies “have all been case-control studies, and most of them have focused on infections and vaccinations and have not analyzed the association in any detail.”
The current investigation featured all 606,420 singleton children who were born in Denmark from 1995 to 2003. The researchers classified antibiotic use based on class, number of uses, and age at use.
Any antibiotic use had no significant impact on the risk of Type 1 diabetes, the authors note (rate ratio = 1.16). This held true on all of the subanalyses looking at class, number of courses, and age at use.
The present findings, the authors conclude, suggest no association between antibiotic use and Type 1 diabetes. Nonetheless, there remains a need for “large, analytical studies of the long-term health effects of drug use in susceptible groups, such as children, and especially so for drugs used as prevalently as antibiotics and for common chronic diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes.”
Am J Epidemiol. 2009;169:1079-1084.
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