Antibiotics beneficial for undernourished kids: Study

Toronto, April 16: Although the use of antibiotics is not without risk, they can improve growth in children at risk of undernourishment in developing countries, including India, a study indicates.

Poor growth is linked to infections and to the microbes that normally reside in the human gut.

“We found that antibiotic treatment had a positive effect on both height and weight with increases of 0.04 cm/month for height and by 23.8 g/month for weight,” said Amee Manges, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

The youngest children from the most vulnerable populations benefit most from antibiotic treatment and show significant improvements toward expected growth for their age and sex, showed the study.

“After accounting for differences in the age of the study participants, effects on height were larger in the youngest children and effects on weight were larger in the trials that were conducted in Africa,” Manges said.

Malnutrition in early childhood, reflected in poor growth, is the cause of nearly half of all mortality worldwide in children less than five years old.

Antibiotics are currently recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for severely malnourished children, and those infected or exposed to HIV, to reduce mortality.

The study appeared in the British Medical Journal.