Wednesday 26 October 2016

'Antibiotics may increase risk of obesity in some children'

Published 08/10/2016 | 02:30

Denis O'Brien, Dr Jennifer Westrup and Ramanan Laxminarayan at the O'Brien lecture in UCD Photo: Gerry Mooney
Denis O'Brien, Dr Jennifer Westrup and Ramanan Laxminarayan at the O'Brien lecture in UCD Photo: Gerry Mooney

Children who are given antibiotics may be at higher risk of weight gain, a leading international economist and epidemiologist has warned.

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Prof Ramanan Laxminarayan said research has suggested this could be linked to the way in which the drugs alter bacteria in the gut.

Prof Laxminarayan, director and senior fellow at the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in Washington, was delivering the annual lecture at the O'Brien Centre for Science in UCD.

"We know antibiotics are a known treatment for severe acute malnutrition," he told the packed gathering.

Speaking about the public health threat from the overuse and misuse of antibiotics worldwide, he said more action is needed to try to stem the daunting crisis, which is leading to potentially deadly infections becoming resistant to these drugs.

Antibiotics, which kill bacterial infections, have been at the heart of modern medicine for many decades, improving the outcomes for patients undergoing surgery.

"If you are going for colorectal surgery, the advantage of having an effective antibiotic to prevent infection is about 25pc," he said.

This also applied to patients who have operations such as a caesarean section or cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy.

Antibiotics can be particularly life-saving for newborns and the elderly.

But Prof Laxminarayan, who is also a senior research scholar and lecturer at the Princeton Environmental Institute at Princeton University, warned that resistance to antibiotics is emerging at between three and 15 years after they are introduced.

Resistance to 'last defence' antibiotics, such as carbapenems, was at around 1pc in 1999 but it rose to 40pc by 2012.

He said patient expectation was contributing to the over-prescribing of antibiotics, such as during flu season, when use of the drugs escalates, although they do not work against viruses.

At the same time in poorer countries, more die from lack of access to antibiotics than from resistance.

There were just 61 new antibiotics produced between 1980 and 2009 but many were withdrawn due to toxicity or other factors.

Investment in research to produce new antibiotics has now substantially increased.

But the race to stop virulent bugs becoming uncontrollable is urgent to reduce unavoidable deaths, he warned.

Irish Independent

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