A new study suggests infants prescribed antibiotics have a higher risk of developing asthma later in childhood. However, the findings suggest that these children may have a specific genetic variation that increases their risk of asthma, rather than the antibiotics themselves causing the disorder.
Researchers from Manchester, London studied over 1,000 children from birth to age 11. They found that children with severe asthma at age 11 were more likely to have been given antibiotics before they were one year old. These children were also twice as likely to have severe wheezing problems or be hospitalized for asthma, compared to children not given antibiotics before the age of one.
But the scientists kept uncovering additional facts in this study. They tested their levels of cytokines (messenger molecules that stimulate the immune system to begin fighting against infection from viruses). The children with the severe asthma and wheezing had low levels of these cytokines, implying they may have already immune-deficient prior to receiving the antibiotics.
This may seem like the scientists were splitting hairs, but actually, it’s a pretty important discovery – one that could let the antibiotics off the hook for ‘causing’ asthma.
Looking even deeper into the subject, the scientists then went to the genetic level and found altered two genes located at 17q21 in the children. This means it’s possible that the infants were either born with the genetic variations that made them more susceptible in the first place – or something caused those genes to be different during their life.
Of course, more studies have to be done to find the true cause… but from the chiropractic point of view, there are a couple of things to note and speculate about.
First of all, chiropractic spinal manipulation has been found to be beneficial for immunity; studies have found that chiropractic adjustments decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines and an increase in antibodies involved in the immune response. In an ideal world where children received chiropractic care from an early age, it’s possible that the asthma study results might be different. Perhaps the risk of the children developing viral infections and needing the antibiotics in the first place would be lower. The one way to find out would be to run the same study again and add a separate group of children – those who were also receiving chiropractic care.
Secondly, chiropractors are always concerned about nutrition. New studies on vitamin D in the last decade have even found that some babies have deficient levels of the vitamin. A vitamin D deficiency clearly is linked to lower immunity. While the researchers are testing the additional group of children for chiropractic care, they could also be testing everyone in the study for vitamin D levels. It’s possible that both nutrition and chiropractic matter more than anything else in this puzzle of immunity.
Once scientists begin using lateral thinking skills to comprehend more of the big picture in health instead of only a few variables, we will make greater progress in leaps and bounds. And that’s when the world of health will truly change. In the meantime, discuss your child’s immune system with your chiropractor.
Some recent case studies have suggests that chiropractic has benefited some children with asthma.
Semic-Jusufagic, A., et al. Assessing the association of early life antibiotic prescription with asthma exacerbations, impaired antiviral immunity, and genetic variants in 17q21: a population-based birth cohort study. Lancet Respir Med 2014 May 14. (epub ahead of print)