Early Antibiotics -Minimal Risk for Crohn’s Disease

Previous studies have shown an association between the early use of antibiotics and an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease. A recent study examined all the children born in Denmark from 1995-2009 and followed them up to 2013 via a prospectively maintained database.

A Mark-Christensen et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2022; 28: 415-422. Early-Life Exposure to Antibiotics and Risk for Crohn’s Disease: A Nationwide Danish Birth Cohort Study 

During a median 9.5 years (9.3 million total person-years), CD was diagnosed in 208 of 979,039 children.

Key findings:

  • Antibiotic use in the first year of life was associated with a higher risk of CD (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.4)…with the highest risk with ≥6 courses of antibiotics (adjusted hazard ratio, 4.1)
  • The cumulative risk of CD at the 11th birthday for children exposed to antibiotics in their first year of life was 0.16% compared to 0.11% for children unexposed to antibiotics in their first year of life. 

My take: This study indicates that antibiotics (and/or serious infections) are associated with an increased the risk of pediatric Crohn’s disease but the absolute risk is very low. We still have a lot to learn about how environmental exposures, including diet, infections, antibiotics, and pollution, contribute to the increasing prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease.

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From Atlanta Botanical Gardens -Thanks to Jennifer for this picture