Early-Life Exposure to Oral Antibiotics and Lung Function Into Early Adulthood

Karoliny dos Santos, Caroline J. Lodge, Michael J. Abramson, Bircan Erbas, Catherine M. Bennett, Jennie Hui, Shyamali C. Dharmage, Adrian J. Lowe

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Background: Although there is ongoing debate regarding the impact of early postnatal exposure to antibiotics on the development of asthma, the possibility that antibiotic exposure may impair lung function has not previously been examined. Furthermore, it is unclear if specific types of antibiotics may have a greater effect, or if children with genetic mutations in the oxidative stress response glutathione S-transferase (GST) superfamily may be at greater risk. Methods: Parent-reported data of childhood antibiotic use from birth to 2 years, including type and indication, were collected from a birth cohort of 620 infants with a family history of allergy. Spirometry was performed at age 12 and 18 years, and results are presented as z scores. Participants were genotyped for GST-P, GST-M, and GST-T polymorphisms. Linear regression models were used to investigate the associations while adjusting for confounding factors. Results: Neither increasing days of exposure nor earlier exposure to antibiotics was associated with reduced FEV1 (at 18 years, per doubling of days of exposure = –0.03 z score units; 95% CI, –0.11 to 0.04) or FVC (< 0.01; 95% CI, –0.08 to 0.07). There was no evidence that GST-risk polymorphisms (M1, P1, and T1) increased susceptibility, and specific types of antibiotics also did not increase risk of lung function deficits. Conclusions: Increasing exposure to oral antibiotics in early postnatal life was not associated with reduced lung function in children with a family history of allergic diseases. Although unwarranted use of antibiotics in children should be minimized, concerns regarding long-term lung health should not be a driving influence for this rationalization of use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-341
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • antibiotics
  • epidemiology (pulmonary)
  • lung function

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