Researchers have found that antibiotics use may be associated with an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and its subtypes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
IBD is a term for two conditions (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) that are characterised by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
According to the study, published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, the association between antimicrobial treatment and IBD remained when patients were compared with their siblings.
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IBD is becoming more common, particularly in Europe, the US and other parts of the world undergoing rapid economic development, increased sanitation, and more frequent use of antibiotics.
With a growing appreciation for the gut microbiome’s role in maintaining human health, concern has risen that antibiotics may perturb and permanently alter these fragile microbial communities. This could potentially impact the risk of gastrointestinal disease.
In the study, researchers were able to more definitively demonstrate that more frequent use of antibiotics was associated with the development of IBD and its subtypes.
“I think this affirms what many of us have suspected–that antibiotics, which adversely affect gut microbial communities, are a risk factor for IBD,” said study lead author Dr Long Nguyen from the Harvard Medical School in the US.
The researchers identified almost 24,000 new IBD cases (16,000 had ulcerative colitis and 8,000 Crohn’s disease) and compared them with 28,000 siblings, and 117,000 controls from the general population.
The researchers were able to enroll all consecutive, eligible patients with new-onset IBD from a population-based register over a ten-year study period, limiting selection bias.
The findings showed that prior use of antibiotics was associated with a nearly two-times increased risk of IBD after adjusting for several risk factors.
The increased risk was noted for both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease with the highest estimates corresponding to broad-spectrum antibiotics.
“To identify risk factors for IBD is important, and ultimately our aim is to prevent the disease. Our study provides another piece of the puzzle and even more reason to avoid using antibiotics needlessly,” the authors wrote. (IANS)