Global Health Asia-Pacific May 2022 May 2022 - Page 35

Giving babies antibiotics could weaken response to vaccination

Children should instead receive short antibiotic courses if possible

Toddlers who receive antibiotics in the first two years of life may develop less strong immunity from certain vaccines that are regularly administered to prevent several common infectious diseases .

Researchers looked at the antibiotic prescriptions of hundreds of children aged 6 to 24 months while measuring their antibody levels relative to the vaccines aimed at preventing several diseases , including whooping cough and polio . They then compared the information with data from children who didn ’ t receive any antibiotics . The results showed that each antibiotic course reduced pre-booster antibody levels associated with the whooping cough vaccine by 5.8 percent and those linked to polio by 11.3 percent . The observed antibody level reduction was even higher after children received booster doses . The length of the antibiotic treatment influenced the drop as well , with a 10-day course reducing antibodies while the 5-day ones did not .
While lower antibody levels could indicate decreased immune system ability to prevent the conditions , the researchers didn ’ t look into whether the observed children were at higher risk .
“ Antibiotics are miracle medicines ,” said Dr Michael Pichichero , a paediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute and one of the research authors , according to Science News . “ In no way does this study imply that children who need an antibiotic shouldn ’ t get it ,” he stressed , noting that a short course was recommended whenever possible .
A theory to explain decreased antibody levels holds that antibiotics kill off some beneficial gut bacteria , which are essential for an effective immune response .
Though the standard vaccinations for polio , measles , whooping cough , mumps , and chickenpox are effective at preventing the conditions , children have different levels of immunity , and doctors don ’ t understand why this is the case . “ Until now , it ’ s been a big black box ,” said Dr Pichichero , according to HealthDay . “ Some people used to say it was bad luck , which isn ’ t a very good answer .” He believes the findings suggest antibiotic use could play an important role in explaining the difference .
The study also provides another incentive to minimise antibiotic use . “ If anyone needed yet another reason why overprescription of antibiotics is not a good thing , this paper offers that reason ,” immunologist Dr Bali Pulendran of the Stanford University School of Medicine , who was not involved in the study , told Science News .
In addition to the lack of adequate sanitation , poor infection prevention , and lax control in many healthcare settings , the overuse of antibiotics is another driver of antibiotic resistance , or the ability of pathogens , like bacteria , to become resistant to drugs over time . The World Health Organization has now listed antimicrobial resistance ( AMR ) as one of the top 10 global public health threats due to the rising rates of resistance in a host of common infections previously treated effectively with antibiotics . Some of the most widespread include urinary tract infections , sexually transmitted diseases , and certain forms of diarrhoea .
Bacteria that are now resistant to medications directly killed roughly 1.2 million people in 2019 , according to a study published in The Lancet , while the number of deaths associated with hard-to-treat pathogens stood at almost five million , meaning effective antibiotics could have saved all these lives in a single year .
GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com MAY 2022
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