Antibiotics and Growth in Children From Low Income Countries Interview with:
Ethan K Gough, PhD candidate
Department of Epidemiology
Biostatistics and Occupational Health
McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: Antibiotic use produces significant gains toward expected growth in children, for their age and sex, from low- and middle-income countries. Children included in our study were generally smaller in height and weight than adequately nourished children of the same age, reflecting the spectrum of stunting and wasting malnutrition seen in low- and middle-income countries. Antibiotic use had a larger impact on weight than height, and the effect on weight was larger in populations who may be at greater risk of infections and early mortality, such as populations with a high prevalence of HIV infection or exposure, and a high prevalence of severe acute malnutrition. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Not completely, no. Or hypothesis was that there would be a significant effect of antibiotic use on growth in low- and middle-income countries, and that the antibiotic growth promoting effect would vary by the characteristics of the children being treated. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? 

Answer: Our study demonstrates that in addition to the recognized benefits of antibiotics for saving the lives of children at high risk for early mortality due to infections, antibiotics can also improve the growth and development of these children. This has positive implications for their development and future well-being. Unfortunately, in many low- and middle-income countries, these select children are a meaningful proportion of the population. However, our findings are NOT to be taken as evidence for wide-spread use of antibiotics to treat malnutrition, due to concerns about antibiotic resistance. What is important, is that there is some mechanism through which antibiotic use promotes growth in these children, and we need to understand what that mechanism is. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: Antibiotic treatment for undernourished children is not the best solution and more research is needed to better understand the underlying reasons for improved growth so that safer treatments can be developed.



Last Updated on April 16, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD