Study to probe the link between antibiotics in pregnancy and allergies
The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital has launched a new pilot study that will be the first to examine the link in recruiting patients.
Anesthesiologists say the use of antibiotics during pregnancy and childbirth has increased over the past two decades.
“Really over the past 10 to 20 years it is now thought that 50% or more of women are exposed to antibiotics and of course their babies too,” said Associate Professor Victoria Eley, specialist anesthesiologist at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. , noted.
She said all women who have a planned or emergency cesarean section are given antibiotics before birth to prevent infection.
Antibiotics are also used for other indications such as when the membrane surrounding the baby ruptures early or when a woman has a fever during labor.
Dr Eley says some of his collaborators have found that when a baby is exposed to antibiotics, it influences the type of bacteria that thrive in their mouth and gastrointestinal tract.
“Antibiotics babies are exposed to at birth can influence the bacteria in their gut and the development of their immune system,” Associate Professor Eley said.
The first stage of the new pilot study will focus on babies born by cesarean section. A group of women who receive antibiotics will be compared to a group who will not receive the drug.
Researchers will collect samples of breast milk, a baby’s stool, and amniotic fluid to look for any differences.
“It is very important to ensure the safety of women so that only very low risk women are included in this study,” Associate Professor Eley said.
The study will provide early clues as to whether antibiotics given during childbirth make children more susceptible to food allergies, asthma and eczema.
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Ongoing research will determine whether a more targeted approach to prescribing antibiotics is needed.