islamabad - Infection in the first year of life can be deadly for an infant, and antibiotic treatment is often the first port of call that could raise a child’s risk of food allergies, according to recent research.

Lead author Dr Bryan Love, of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, and colleagues said that  what is more, the risk of food allergy diagnosis increased with the number of antibiotic prescriptions a child received; a child who received three antibiotic prescriptions was 1.31 times more likely to have a food allergy, four prescriptions were linked to a 1.43 times greater risk, and five or more increased food allergy risk by 1.64 times.

Cephalosporin and sulfonamide antibiotics were found to have the strongest association with food allergy diagnosis, the researchers report. The findings remained after accounting for numerous possible confounding factors, including breast-feeding, asthma, eczema, maternal age, and place of residence.

Dr. Love and colleagues say their findings suggest healthcare providers should be cautious when prescribing antibiotics to young children, as they may spur food allergy development and other conditions.

Dr Bryan Love said: “We need better diagnostic tools to help identify kids who truly need antibiotics. Overusing antibiotics invites more opportunity for side effects, including the potential development of food allergies, and can encourage antibacterial resistance.” The study did not explore the mechanisms underlying the association between antibiotics and food allergies, but the researchers speculate that it is a result of changes to gut bacteria.  “Commensal gut flora serves an important role in both immune system development and immune tolerance,” he added.

“Studies with germ-free animals show impaired humoral and cell-mediated immune function. Also, the interaction with normal gut flora is important in the development of regulatory T cells and IgA antibody, both of which are important in developing tolerance to foreign proteins such as food,” he added.

As a result, early antibiotic treatment has been associated with a number of conditions; a study published last year, for example, linked regular antibiotic use in children with increased risk of obesity, while another study associated early antibiotic use with increased asthma risk.