Food Allergies Antibiotic Exposure
CPOS Research Feature: Bryan Love

Bryan Love, PharmD, Clinical Assistant Professor in Department of Clinical Pharmacy & Outcomes Sciences, SC College of Pharmacy, is getting some increased attention from a recent study showing that repeated antibiotic exposure during the first year of life is associated with increased risk of food allergy.  The one-year study, entitled, “Antibiotics Received in the First Year of Life and Odds of Food Allergy in Children” was funded by a grant from the US Department of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) specifically focused on promoting the health development of the maternal child health population.  Dr. Love, who also works as a Clinical Pharmacist in GI/Hepatology at the WJB Dorn Veterans Affair (VA) Medical Center, served as the PI on the grant.

Food allergies are most prevalent during the first years of life, and overall prevalence of food allergies has increased by nearly 20% in recent years. The gastrointestinal tract plays an important role in immune function and tolerance to food. Antibiotics – often prescribed during early childhood to fight infections – can affect the GI flora and repeated antibiotic exposure may alter the gastrointestinal flora during a critical period when new foods (potential allergens) are being introduced into the diet of infants. As a result, unhealthy or altered gastrointestinal flora interferes with normal immunoregulation and in the presence of new foods can lead to food allergy. To test this hypothesis, Dr. Love and his research team conducted a case-control study in SC Medicaid children to investigate the association between antibiotic exposure and development of food allergy.  They found that multiple antibiotic exposure during the first year of life significantly increased the risk of food allergy.

The results of the study are now getting some national attention. At the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) 2013 Annual Meeting, held Feb. 22-26, a late-breaking oral abstract shared by Dr.  Love generated national news coverage. Family Practice News was one of several medical news outlets that ran a story about the findings. In the article, Love is quoted as saying “Systemic antibiotics not only kill bacteria causing an infection … [they] are also distributed to other parts of our body where they can kill susceptible bacteria that are part of our normal flora – especially in the gastrointestinal tract.”

Dr. Love is now trying to take that study to a next level to help determine if specific antibiotics are more likely to lead to food allergy and which food allergies, in particular, might occur. With additional funding, the team plans to examine a much larger sample of patients using a retrospective cohort study design. Eventually, the study team would like to determine if there are differences in the normal GI flora (microbiome) between healthy children/adults and those with food allergy. More details on the study and its findings will be released after publication. An illustrative list of coverage of the AAAAI presentation includes:

·         Antibiotic Exposure in Infancy Linked to Food Allergies. Medscape. Feb 28, 2013.

·         Early antibiotics may up food allergy risk. Pediatric News. Mar 4, 2013.

·         Use of Antibiotics in First Year of Life Linked to Food Allergies. Doctor’s Guide News. Feb 27, 2013.

·         Antibiotics in the first year of life linked to more food allergies. Reuters Health News. Feb 28, 2013.