Antibiotics in Childhood and Future Health

Posted on Healthcare By Dr. Nigel Beejay - Published on 2014-11-25


Can Using Antibiotics In Childhood Impact Your Future Health?
In the last few years, scientists have become more interested in investigating the relationship between the good and bad bacteria that live within our bodies. Through extensive genetic research, we have discovered that the relationship between us and the bacteria that live within us is very complex. One thing is quite clear: not all bacteria that live within our bodies are bad; some are, in fact, essential for us to live healthy lives. Furthermore many of these bacterias begin their relationship with our bodies from our birth. This article answers some common questions about antibiotic use and how it may affect our future health.

What Are Antibiotics And How Do They Work?
Antibiotics are medicines used to treat infections/diseases caused by bacteria. Many infections can be treated with antibiotics including chest infections, urinary tract infections, skin infections and infected wounds. Antibiotics are very effective and have transformed the treatment of bacterial infections since their discovery over 80 years ago. Antibiotics work by blocking critical functions in bacteria that either kill or prevent bacteria from reproducing. Antibiotics help the body’s natural immune system overcome the infection.

What Bacteria Live Inside Us And Why Are They Important?
Billions of different kinds of bacteria have been living inside our bodies for thousands of years. The bacteria that lives inside all of us are collectively called the human microbiome. The microbiome are all the organisms that call our bodies home, that live inside us and interact with each other and with ourselves.  We have a long term deep relationship with these bacteria. Some go as far to say that rather than humans hosting bacteria, bacteria host us! Many of the bacteria are important for many reasons including providing nutrients and regulating the immune system.

Why Might It Be Unwise To Use Antibiotics?
Often a bacterial infection represents an imbalance of forces between one type of bacteria and the immune system. Unfortunately antibiotics lack specificity so that when they are given to kill one type of bug, they may kill or suppress vast numbers of other bacteria, some of which may be good bacteria that are serving useful functions for the body. By using excessive or inappropriate antibiotics in early childhood, the diversity and specific populations of bacteria living in different part of the gut may be permanently altered, and these new populations may interact with the body in different ways, ultimately leading to the development of human illness and disease in the future.

What Kinds Of Diseases Are Associated With The Changes In The Intestinal Microbiome?
Increasingly, research suggests the following pathway: antibiotic use may lead to changes in the intestinal microbiome and altered human immunity. These imbalances in our microbial ecosystem can result in suboptimal immune systems, which may, be associated with many diseases including food allergies, autism, asthma, autoimmune diseases like thyroid disease, diabetes, coeliac, and Crohn’s disease. Other diseases like colon cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and irritable bowel syndrome have been linked to changes in the microbiome and our immune systems

What Should I Do?
It’s far too early to come to clear conclusions about the links between antibiotics, the intestinal microbiome, immune system strength and development of disease. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that inappropriate antibiotic use in childhood may in the future be linked to the development of diseases in later life. If you suffer from symptoms after using antibiotics, it might mean that you have an imbalance in your intestinal microbiome! 


About Author

Dr. Nigel Beejay

Dr. Nigel Beejay is a Consultant Physician/Gastroenterologist at Advanced Center for Daycare Surgery since 2014 and works in the world renowned Harley Street and the BMI London Independent Hospital in London. Dr. Beejay is Certified in the US and UK, with over 15 years of experience in General Medicine, Gastroenterology, Endoscopy and Liver Disease. Dr. Beejay received his training in Cambridge University, Boston University, University of London and University of Toronto. He lectures about endoscopy in the Faculty of St. George's Hospital. Dr. Beejay also lectures internationally in Gastroenterology and Endoscopy. From 2009 to 2014, Dr. Beejay was appointed Consultant Physician and Chair of the Health Information Management Committee at a tertiary 571 bed, teaching hospital managed by Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi. Prior to that, Dr. Beejay practiced in London for 6 years and was Lead Consultant for Gastroenterology/Endoscopy at Newham University Hospital, London and Consultant at Barts and the London NHS Trust. Dr. Beejay completed the prestigious Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy/Endoscopic Oncology Fellowship at the Wellesley Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital and University of Toronto between 2000 to 2002. Dr Beejay is the Chairman of Abu Dhabi Gastroenterology, Primary Care and Hepatology conferences over the last few years.

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