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The University of Southampton

Research project: PROBITY - Prolonged Antibiotic Use, Inflammation and Obesity - a retrospective cohort study

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This is a retrospective cohort study to investigate the long-term effects of prolonged antibiotic consumption on health.

We intend to analyse primary care data relating to antibiotic prescriptions during adolescence and follow-up data at specified intervals including height, weight, BMI, diagnoses of illnesses including hypertension, diabetes, obesity.

Lengthy antibiotic courses are often used during teenage years for common conditions such as acne. Some bacteria are becoming resistant to a wide range of antibiotics and these ‘superbugs’ are a growing threat to our health and are mainly a consequence of extensive antibiotic use in medical practice. Recent research has hinted that antibiotic use could be linked with an increased chance of weight gain or obesity which has become one of the most serious global challenges in terms of long-term health. Our gut contains bacteria (referred to as the gut flora) which can be dramatically altered after taking antibiotics and these changes may lead to health problems.

Work has suggested that the changes in the gut flora can dramatically influence our metabolism and lead to increased body fat. Specific changes in the gut flora have been linked with chronic illnesses including diabetes. To date however, the significance of lengthy antibiotic exposure remains unknown but it is possible that careful and considerate use of antibiotics could minimize long-term consequences such as significant weight gain in addition to reducing antibiotic resistance.

We are interested in evaluating if there are increased rates of obesity in adult life in patients who are given lengthy courses of antibiotics in earlier life (between ages 11 and 18). We will use the Hampshire Health Record Analytical database (HHRA) which is an electronic store of anonymised health data for over 1.4 million patients in Hampshire. We also intend to look at links with other conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. This work has the potential to influence guidelines on the treatment of conditions such as acne where there are suitable alternative (non-antibiotic) therapies. This will also be one of the first studies to look at the extent of lengthy antibiotic use in the UK.

LOCAL INVESTIGATORS: Dr Mark Lown, Professors Paul Little and Michael Moore

Funder: NIHR SPCR FR13

Duration: 1 year, until March 2018





Related research groups

Primary Care, Population Sciences and Medical Education
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