A new study suggests that taking oral antibiotics may have played a role in the massive increase of kidney stones in the United States since the '70s.

What's more, after analyzing health records of 13.8 million patients, researchers found that children and adults treated with oral antibiotics have a significantly higher risk of developing kidney stones, marking the first time these treatments have been linked to this condition.

Prevalence Of Kidney Stones Increasing

"The overall prevalence of kidney stones has risen by 70 percent over the past 30 years, with particularly sharp increases among adolescents and young women," said Gregory E. Tasian, a pediatric urologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and leader of the study. He noted that kidney stones used to be rare among children, but that is not the case nowadays.

The exact reason why kidney stones are on the rise is unknown, but the study has found that antibiotic intake may play a key role, especially considering the fact that children are given more antibiotics than adults.

The findings were published May 10 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Exposure to any of the five classes of antibiotics significantly increased the risk for kidney stones, according to the study. Ingestion of broad-spectrum penicillins, for example, yielded a 27 percent increase in kidney stone risk. Meanwhile, those who take sulfa drugs are twice as likely to develop kidney stones than those who don't ingest the medicine.

What Happens When A Human Microbiome Is Altered

Scientist are already aware that antibiotics alter the composition of the human microbiome, or the community of microorganisms in the body. To be clear, the study doesn't conclude that taking antibiotics automatically means that a person will develop kidney stones, but Tasian explained that the most likely explanation between the two is the interaction between antibiotics and the urinary and gut microbiome.

"We're dealing with a risk-benefit relationship, and we want to make sure that antibiotics are prescribed without unnecessarily increasing adverse health outcomes," he said.

About 30 percent of prescribed antibiotics are inappropriate, Tasian noted, and because children receive more of them than any other age group, the researchers' findings reinforce the need for clinicians to be more mindful of prescriptions, especially if the recipients are children.

Tasian and his colleagues are planning to investigate the microbiomes of children and adolescents further. The hope is that they can conduct a broader, population-based research to equip people with a better understanding of how alterations in microbiomes affect the development of kidney stones.

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