A new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that children treated with antibiotics have double the risk of developing juvenile arthritis compared to children who don’t receive antibiotics.
Researchers analyzed data they received from The Health Improvement Network (THIN)—a population-representative medical records database from the U.K. Researchers compared the use of antibiotics in children diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and age/gender-matched subjects.
Data from 450,000 children were assessed—of these, 152 children were diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. After considering previous infections and autoimmune conditions, researchers found that antibiotic prescription was associated with an increased risk of juvenile diabetes.
Furthermore, children who had upper respiratory tract infections, and were treated with antibiotics, had a higher risk of arthritis compared to children with untreated respiratory tract infections. Researchers found no link between antiviral drugs and arthritis, and so were able to associate the increased risk to antibiotics.
The study’s lead author Daniel Horton suggests that juvenile arthritis patients are more susceptible to infections as their immune systems aren’t strong enough to defend their bodies. The study’s findings, according to Horton, could hypothetically be explained with the theory that an abnormal immune system makes children more vulnerable to serious infections before they are diagnosed with arthritis.
In this case—antibiotic prescription could be an indicator for abnormal immune systems rather than a straight cause of arthritis. Horton explains: “A majority of children get antibiotics, but only about one in 1,000 get arthritis. So even if antibiotics do contribute to the development of arthritis, it’s clearly not the only factor.”
Researchers conclude that further research is needed.
Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joints, which can lead to pain, stiffness, mobility problems, and, in rare cases, loss of vision. The disorder is usually associated with older adults; however, approximately 294,000 American children under the age of 18 are believed to have arthritis or other rheumatoid illnesses.
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Source for Today’s Article:
McIntosh, J., “Child antibiotic exposure linked to juvenile arthritis,” Medical News Today web site, July 20, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/297004.php.