Frequent antibiotic use linked to increased risk of juvenile arthritis

By Rebecca Burton • Published: October 1st, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The next time your child comes home sick from school, you may want to think twice about putting them on antibiotics right away. Researchers from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School found that the more antibiotics a child is prescribed, the more at risk they will be for developing juvenile arthritis, an autoimmune disorder known to cause inflammation, pain, stiffness and mobility problems in the body’s joints.

Although arthritis is typically an adult disease, around 249,000 children in the U.S. are believed to have arthritic symptoms. About 25 percent of these cases are linked to genetics, leaving doctors to believe the remaining cases are linked to environmental factors.

To investigate the antibiotics-arthritis link, researchers analyzed the health records of 152 children diagnosed with some form of juvenile arthritis. This data was then compared to that of healthy children.

The data showed that children who were treated with antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections were at a higher risk for juvenile arthritis than those who did not receive antibiotics. However, the lead author of the study says that children with juvenile arthritis may be more susceptible to serious infections because their immune system is weaker.

So experts say there could be two factors at work here. Overuse of antibiotics may be contributing to the risk of arthritis in children, but it could also be the case that higher antibiotic use in these children is a predictor of the problem to come.

The researchers warn that this is just an observational study and the reason for the increased risk is not yet understood. However, the study provides an important clue about a very serious disease.