Antibiotics Linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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A new study has uncovered an interesting link between antibiotics and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. This study provides further evidence that antibiotics may be disturbing bacteria in the intestine.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Charles N. Bernstein, who studies bowel disorders at the University of Manitoba stated, “It’s not that antibiotics cause inflammatory bowel disease, but that it further supports the hypothesis that changing the gut flora may be disadvantageous.”

In the study, Canadian researchers found 12 percent of people diagnosed with the two conditions had been prescribed three or more antibiotics two years before, compared to seven percent without the disease. This difference was consistent over a five-year period.

In other words, if antibiotics were solely responsible for the difference, for every 20 people prescribed three or more antibiotics, there would be one extra case of IBD.

Once the researchers took other factors into account, they found that people prescribed lots of antibiotics were as much as 50 percent more likely to get Crohn’s disease within two to five years.

Published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, the study looked at 24,000 people from the one of the largest IBD databases in North America.

“It’s a well-done study that has a strong well-maintained database that allows the authors to get quality data,” said Dr. Jean-Paul Achkar, who studies the genetics of IBD at the Cleveland Clinic and was not part of the study.

“They even tried to adjust for non-antibiotic prescription history, and still antibiotics came out as being associated with increased risk of IBD.”

The cause of IBD is unclear, but some scientists think IBD may result from the immune system overreacting to viruses or bacteria in the intestine.

“There is growing evidence that alterations in the balance of normal intestinal bacteria could lead to the development of IBD,” said Achkar.

Most people who’ve taken antibiotics will not develop IBD. But Bernstein still thinks a portion of the population is at risk.

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