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BSI response to story on link between early life antibiotic use and allergies

A study presented at the European Respiratory Society Conference reported a link between the use of antibiotics in early life and subsequent risk of developing eczema or hay fever.  In response to this report, the BSI has issued the following statement:

Dr Sheena Cruickshank, British Society for Immunology spokesperson, and Senior Lecturer in Immunology, The University of Manchester, said:

“In recent years, there have been many studies looking at whether there is a link between early life exposure to antibiotics and an individual’s subsequent risk of developing allergies. The results of these individual studies have been contradictory, but what they have shown is that there are probably many factors at play in determining this relationship.  The finding presented here of an increased risk of hay fever or eczema with early life antibiotic exposure is an interesting observation, based on an analysis of 22 previously published studies for each condition.  However, without knowing more about how this work was carried out and how the studies were selected, it is hard to judge the robustness of this finding.  Confounding factors such as how cases were selected, what the antibiotics were for, how long they were taken for and what types of antibiotics were used could have a big influence of effect size.  The effect size reported is quite modest given the stated confidence intervals and this would support more research being carried out to help us fully understand the relationship between early life exposure to antibiotics and subsequent allergy risk.

“When considering work in this area, it’s also imperative to remember that antibiotics are one of the most important tools we have to fight bacterial infections and have saved millions of lives.  If a doctor gives your child antibiotics, it’s important for the child’s health that they are taken as prescribed.”

You can read the press release that this statement is in response to here.

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