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Antibiotics are medicines used to kill the bacteria trying to invade the body and affect it negatively. Though they are often touted as a 'wonder drug,' using them at an early age can be harmful to your health. A new study published in the journal Nature Communications found that exposure to antibiotics in the initial days of life is associated with decreased weight and height in boys.
According to the study, antibiotic treatment within fourteen days of birth can lead to reduced weight and height in boys, but not girls, up to the age of six. The authors of the study opined that although the use of antibiotics is essential and a life-saving medication in newborn infants, there are some "unwanted long-term consequences which need to be considered."
For the study, the team investigated the impact of neonatal antibiotic exposure in 12,422 children born between 2008 and 2010. No abnormalities or chronic disorders affecting growth were present in these babies. These babies did not need long-term antibiotic treatment either. Of these, 1,151 babies had been administered within the first days of life of the neonates in the study.
The team of researchers found that boys exposed to antibiotic treatment showed significantly reduced weight compared to non-exposed children throughout the first six years. Kids between the ages of 2 and 6 also exhibited lower height and BMI.
There are several bacteria as well as viruses and other organisms in the gut, collectively this is known as the microbiome. Our microbiome is very important for normal health and development. It has also been linked to several health outcomes, including immunity, obesity, heart diseases and cancer.
When a baby is born, they are exposed to bacteria and other microbes at birth. Newborns born vaginally obtain their initial microbiome from the birth canal and gut. Babies delivered by caesarean section are more prone to acquire bacteria from the mother or the surroundings.
Antibiotics given during pregnancy may alter the mother's microbiome to a certain extent, which reduces the chances of the babies from getting infected. Use of antibiotics may kill the bacteria causing infection and, in some cases, may even kill the microbes that are beneficial. This may increase the risk of infection in infants.
The study suggests that antibiotics exposure during the first days of life may create disturbances in the gut microbiome up until the age of two. Infants exposed to neonatal antibiotics did not exhibit lower gut microbiome richness when compared to unexposed infants.
(with inputs from IANS)
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