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Vaccinations work worse in young children if they are given antibiotics.

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Antibiotics reduce the effectiveness of vaccinations in young children

Taking antibiotics in young children can reduce the protection provided by vaccinations. This is the result of a study by US researchers that was published in the journal Pediatrics. For the study, 560 infants between the ages of six and 24 months were routinely screened and observed. The frequency with which young children suffered from respiratory infections and middle ear infections was recorded. In addition, blood samples from the children were evaluated, which were taken during follow-up and when acute middle ear infection occurred. The researchers determined the children’s antibody levels for previous vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis, flu and pneumococci.

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Of the 560 children examined, 342 had been treated with antibiotics within the first two years of life. Their antibody levels were on average lower than those of children not treated with antibiotics. The antibody level was particularly low when children aged nine to twelve months received antibiotic treatment. Repeated antibiotic therapies also resulted in particularly low antibody values. Other studies have already shown that taking antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of vaccinations, and this has been shown for the first time in young children.

“The most important finding was that significantly lower antibody titers were measured, especially in children who received antibiotics between the ninth and 24th months of life. These are below the concentrations generally considered relevant for immune protection. This would expose them to a greater risk of contracting infections caused by the pathogens they have been given the vaccination against, “Ulrich Schaible, microbiologist at the Leibniz Center for Medicine and Biosciences (FZB) in Borstel, told the Science Media Center (SMC).

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Antibiotics destroy beneficial gut bacteria

Cornelia Gottschick, infection epidemiologist at Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg, told SMC: “The results of the study are very interesting and show once again how important it is that antibiotics are not administered lightly.” Gottschick also explained how antibiotic therapy could reduce immune protection: “The gut is colonized by countless different bacteria that keep our immune system moving and ensure it stays in balance. Antibiotics, which are often prescribed for infections of the ‘middle ear in early childhood, they attack not only the harmful bacteria in the ear, but also the beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome. This disrupts the balance of bacteria with our immune system and it is conceivable that vaccinations are no longer fully effective, which can lead to reduced immune protection. However, this is only a theoretical hypothesis, as the study does not examine the gut microbiome had been.

Claudius Meyer, an immunologist at the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at University Medical Center Mainz, told the SMC that if a minimum level of antibodies is not achieved for a vaccination, there is “rightly the fear that only reduced protection “. The exception is vaccination against pertussis, for which a minimum level of antibodies for protection has not been established for years. However, the study did not prove that there was no response to the vaccine. All the children responded “productively” to vaccinations, so it can be assumed that they had some degree of protection despite the low levels of antibodies. Antibodies are only part of the immunological response to a vaccine. T-cell-mediated immune memory may also lead to a protective effect, but it was not examined in the study.

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