Could Antibiotics Be Tied to Arthritis in Kids?

Juvenile arthritis risk linked to antibiotic exposure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Antibiotics are miracle drugs that have saved millions of lives, but some worry that their overuse could have serious consequences. Now there may be yet another cause for concern.

A new study found that antibiotic use during childhood may be linked to the development of juvenile arthritis.

"Our research suggests another possible reason to avoid antibiotic overuse for infections that would otherwise get better on their own," said lead study author Daniel B. Horton, MD, a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of pediatrics at Rutgers University, in a press release.

Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that can cause a variety of symptoms, including swelling, pain and stiffness in the joints, skin rash, inflammation of the eyes and growth problems.

Dr. Horton and team used data from a UK medical records database from 1994 to 2013 to look at 454,457 children ages 1 to 15.

Among these children, 152 had juvenile arthritis.

Those who had been exposed to antibiotics had twice the odds of developing juvenile arthritis, compared to children of the same age and gender who did not have the condition.

As exposure went up, so did the risk.

Kids who had been treated more than five times with antibiotics had three times the odds of developing the disorder.

Kids who had upper respiratory tract infections that were treated with antibiotics were also more likely to develop juvenile arthritis — compared with kids whose infections went untreated.

No link was seen, however, between juvenile arthritis and other medications, such as anti-fungal and antiviral treatments.

"A majority of children get antibiotics, but only about 1 in 1,000 get arthritis," Dr. Horton said. "So even if antibiotics do contribute to the development of arthritis, it's clearly not the only factor."

This study was published July 20 in the journal Pediatrics.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research.

Several study authors disclosed ties to a number of pharmaceutical companies that produce antibiotics, including AbbVie, Takeda and GlaxoSmithKline.

Review Date: 
July 20, 2015
Last Updated:
July 23, 2015