Greater prescribing of antibiotics to infants has coincided with an epidemic of allergic disease. Through meta-analytic synthesis, accumulating evidence from prospective or database cohorts suggests a link between infant antibiotic treatment and the development of atopy. Stronger associations seen with multiple course and broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment add to biological plausibility. A major bias, confounding by indication, has been addressed in studies on antibiotic treatment of conditions which do not precede allergic disease. Areas covered: Our review provides an up-to-date synthesis of the current literature on associations between infant antibiotic exposure and future allergic disease. We discuss methods that assist in reducing study bias and look at new insights from studies of the infant gut microbiome. Expert commentary: Large-scale profiling of the gut microbiome provides a new tool for disentangling biases found in observational studies of infant antibiotic use. To date, microbial dysbiosis of the infant gut has been reported to predict allergic disease independent of antibiotic exposure up to 3 months after birth. However, these studies have not accounted for antibiotic treatment in later infancy. Continued study of the infant gut microbiome, mycobiome, or resistome will provide a closer link to antibiotic treatment or refute it as a cause of allergic disease.
Keywords: Antibiotics; allergic disease; asthma; infants; microbiome; mycobiome; resistome.