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Study Links Antibiotic Use With Increased Risk Of Juvenile Arthritis

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A new study found that administering antibiotics in children may increase the risk of developing Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). Many studies in the past suggest that microbiome impairment and childhood antibiotic therapy are linked to autoimmune diseases such as JIA. In this new study, the researchers tested this hypothesis to determine if early exposure to antibiotics can indeed increase the risk of developing JIA.

The researchers from Rutgers University, University of Pennsylvania and Nemours A.I. duPont Hospital for Children performed the study by reviewing data from The Health Improvement Network (THIN), an electronic database containing medical records of 11 million individuals in the United Kingdom across 550 general practices. The scope of the nested case-control study included 45,000 children. The researchers determined 152 children aged 1-15 years old with newly diagnosed JIA. They matched the age and sex of the participants with 10 healthy controls, excluding those with systemic rheumatic diseases. The investigation controlled for the kinds and number of infectious and autoimmune diseases. The researchers then used conditional logistic regression to investigate on the link between antibiotics and JIA.

The findings of the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, show that the there is a notable relationship between the administration of both antianaerobic and non-antianaerobic antibiotics in children and the risk of developing JIA. Specifically, the researchers discovered that the link was dependent on the time of administration and the dose of the drug. The most significant association was noted among participants, who underwent multiple antibiotic therapies within a one-year period prior to being diagnosed with JIA. The researchers also delved into the use of nonbacterial antimicrobials such as antivirals and antifungals, and found no association with JIA.

"This is an extremely important clue about the etiology of this serious and potentially crippling disease," says Brian Strom, a senior author from the research and a chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. According to him, if the association is confirmed, the findings of the study will also provide an insight on how to prevent JIA.

Data about the relationships between gut microbiome and the development of chronic diseases are still lacking but the results of this new study and other similar investigations suggest information that may spark the interest of scientific experts. The study also implicated the importance of regulating antibiotic administration appropriately because even short-course therapies may result in chronic effects. Further analysis and investigations are still warranted, the authors say.

Idiopathic juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by the inflammation of the joints and eyes, which may result in severe pain, blindness and disability. The exact etiology of the disease is unknown; however, a quarter of children who develop the disease are said to be triggered by genetics. Some experts also suggest that environmental factors may play a role in the development of the disease.

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