Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for infants. In addition to increasing concern about antibiotic resistance, there is a concern about the potential negative impact of antibiotics on the gut microbiota and health and development outcomes. A recent study was interested in looking at the association between antibiotic exposure during the first two years of life and later neurocognitive outcomes.
Researchers grouped babies into different groups based on age at first exposure: 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-24 months or not at all. At 11 years of age, children’s neurocognitive outcomes were assessed using psychologist-administered, parent-report and self-report measures. The relationship between the timing of antibiotic exposure and neurocognitive outcomes was examined using regression models.
After adjusting for mode of delivery, income, and breastfeeding, children who had received antibiotics in the first 6 months of life had significantly lower overall cognitive and verbal comprehension abilities, increased risk of problems with metacognition, executive function, impulsivity, hyperactivity, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and emotional problems. These results provide further evidence that early exposure to antibiotics may be associated with detrimental neurodevelopmental outcomes. Building a mother’s immunity and gut microbiome perinatally should be a focus for future research and clinical practice, as well as preventative care for infants.