Antibiotics reduce vaccination protection in young children

In young children who have been treated with antibiotics, the protective effect of vaccinations is reduced. That’s according to a study by Timothy J. Chapman of the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute and his team. The experts cite the intestinal microbiome as the reason for the lower antibody levels. Apparently, the antibiotics kill gut bacteria that otherwise boost the immune system. However, the children’s intestinal bacteria were not specifically analyzed for the study, which was published in the specialist journal “Pediatrics”.

The working group examined blood samples taken from 560 children between the ages of 6 and 24 months. Researchers looked at antibody counts for several vaccines that include recommended childhood vaccines: diphtheria, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, influenza and pneumococcus. Chapman and his team also found out from the parents and from medical records whether and how often the infants were given antibiotics. 342 of the 560 test participants had taken antibiotics once or more. They had lower antibody levels from the vaccines than the 218 other children who had not previously received antibiotic treatment. The frequency of therapy also played a role: the more often the children had already taken antibiotics, the fewer antibodies they had from the vaccination reaction.

The cause could be in the gut

According to a press release from the Science Media Center, the antibody level was below a sufficient level of protection, especially in children who were treated with antibiotics between the ages of nine and twelve months.

It has long been known that antibiotics – which are undoubtedly an indispensable medicine against many bacterial diseases – can also damage the microbiome in the gut. Ulrich Schaible from the Research Center Borstel, Leibniz Center for Medicine and Biosciences, who was not involved in the new study, considers the data and their evaluation to be robust. According to the Science Media Center, he proposes that “shorter treatment regimens be developed for small children that can be effective even in the short time, as well as so-called ‘point of care diagnostics’ that can show the effectiveness of antibiotics promptly, so that the administration can be shortened”.

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