USC Research Finds Possible Link Between Antibiotics and Food Allergies

New research explains the possible rise in child allergies.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) –New research at the University of South Carolina seems to indicate a link between children taking antibiotics and increased odds of developing food allergies.

Clinical associate professor in the College of Pharmacy Bryan Love says this was a study that looked back at data from children enrolled in Medicaid in South Carolina. Researchers found that there was an increased likelihood of food allergy in children who took antibiotics compared to children who did not. Children who received five or more prescriptions for antibiotics in their first year of life had a much higher likelihood of having food allergies.

"This study has limitations,” Love says. “It's an observational study so we can't say for certain that the association between antibiotic exposure and the development of food allergies is directly related to the antibiotics. It could be to another factor that we didn't control for in our study."

Food allergies have increased almost 50 percent in the last decade and there’s no clear answer why, which is what prompted this research.

Love says the findings do not mean that parents should not give their children antibiotics if they’re prescribed for infections. Most children do not have food allergies, regardless of antibiotic use. This study just found that antibiotic use seems to increase the odds of food allergy. "I would say to that mother, you need to do what's best for your child, which in most cases is to give the antibiotic,” Love says.

He says more study is needed. "One thing that is being done now is to look at the type and the diversity of bacteria that colonize the intestinal tract. We believe that perhaps repeated exposure to antibiotics might alter that in some way that might predispose kids to food allergies," he says.

In most cases, researchers will use randomized, double-blind studies to find out whether one thing causes another, but that would be unethical in this case, since it would mean some children would be given antibiotics when they didn’t need them while others would not be given antibiotics when they did need them.


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