Use of some antibiotics in infancy associated with early childhood obesity

January 1, 2015

A study in more than 64,500 children aged from birth to 59 months found that repeated exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics up to age 23 months is associated with obesity during early childhood.

A study in more than 64,500 children aged from birth to 59 months found that repeated exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics up to age 23 months is associated with obesity during early childhood.

Investigators analyzed the electronic health records of the children, who were part of a large East Coast pediatric primary care network, to assess the relationships between antibiotic prescription and related diagnoses before age 24 months and development of obesity in the following 3 years, as determined by calculation of body mass index. Antibiotics were the most commonly prescribed medications, most often for pharyngitis or otitis media (69% of children). On average, children had 2 illness episodes for which they received antibiotics, with 62% having at least 1 exposure to narrow-spectrum antibiotics (penicillin, amoxicillin) and 41% to broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Greater broad-spectrum antibiotic use was associated with increased risk for obesity by age 24 months, particularly for children with 4 or more exposures. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics did not have the same association, even after multiple exposures, however (Bailey LC, et al. JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168[11]:1063-1069).

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. Dr Burke, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. The editors have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.