A joint study carried out by multiple universities and the Nemours Hospital for Children found that there is a possible connection between taking antibiotics and increased risk in developing juvenile arthritis. The study was published in the Pediatrics journal.
Experts have long advised against the widespread use of antibiotics in children. This research has just pinpointed another potential consequence of this habit. Comparing children of roughly the same age, the scientists found that those who took antibiotics were twice as likely to develop arthritis within one year compared to those who did not.
Juvenile arthritis is a condition that affects up to 9,000 children per year. It can cause swelling around the eyes and joints which often leads to significant pain.
It is categorized as an autoimmune disease, but only around 25% of cases appear due to inherited genetic conditions. The rest can be attributed to many other factors, now including antibiotics.
The risk increases as more antibiotics are taken. Past studies have suggested that a significant amount of such treatments for children are often unnecessary. Doctors often prescribe them to ease the parents’ fears.
Antibiotics often target more than the disease they were prescribed for. They can attack microbial organisms within the intestines. These often harmless microbes are vital for the well-being of our digestive tracts and stronger antibiotics can cause them serious damage, helping the formation of other diseases.
Researchers also claim that upper respiratory tract infections (such as the common cold) are often the cause for children receiving stronger medication. The efficiency of antibiotics against these conditions is not properly understood. But it is known that the body can easily handle common colds on its own with a little bit of rest.
The study was carried out on 450,000 children, out of which 152 were suffering from juvenile arthritis. The risk of developing the condition is still low even when taking antibiotics, but it is unlikely any parent would want to increase such a risk regardless.
One of the members of the research team, Daniel Horton, claims that antibiotics are clearly not the only causing factor of the juvenile arthritis. There may be a clear link between them, but only indirect evidence has been found so far and further research is required on the matter.
Regardless of whether antibiotics cause juvenile arthritis or not, greater care needs to be taken when administering them to children. Another issue is that bacteria and microbes that get exposed to such medication early on can develop strong immunity.
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