Association Between Antibiotics in the First Year of Life and Celiac Disease

Gastroenterology. 2019 Jun;156(8):2217-2229. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.02.039. Epub 2019 Mar 2.


Background & aims: The intestinal microbiota is believed to be involved in the pathogenesis of celiac disease, in addition to genetic variants and dietary gluten. The gut microbiota is strongly influenced by systemic antibiotics-especially in early life. We explored the association between exposure to a systemic antibiotic in the first year of life and risk of diagnosed celiac disease.

Methods: We performed an observational nationwide register-based cohort study. We included all children born in Denmark from 1995 through 2012 or Norway from 2004 through 2012. Children born in Denmark were followed until May 8, 2015 (age at end of follow-up was 2.3-20.3 years) and children born in Norway were followed until December 31, 2013 (age at end of follow-up was 1-10 years). We collected medical information from more than 1.7 million children, including 3346 with a diagnosis of celiac disease. Exposure to systemic antibiotics was defined as a dispensed systemic antibiotic in the first year of life.

Results: Exposure to systemic antibiotics in the first year of life was positively associated with diagnosed celiac disease in the Danish and Norwegian cohorts (pooled odds ratio 1.26, 95% confidence interval 1.16-1.36). We found a dose-dependent relation between an increasing number of dispensed antibiotics and the risk of celiac disease (pooled odds ratio for each additional dispensed antibiotic 1.08, 95% confidence interval 1.05-1.11). No specific type of antibiotic or age period within the first year of life was prominent. Adjustment for hospital admissions with an infectious disease in the first year of life did not change the estimates; adjustment for the number of maternally reported infections in the child in 2 large sub-cohorts decreased the association slightly (pooled odds ratio 1.18, 95% confidence interval 0.98-1.39).

Conclusion: In a nationwide study of children in Denmark and Norway, we found exposure to systemic antibiotics in the first year of life to be associated with a later diagnosis of celiac disease. These findings indicate that childhood exposure to systemic antibiotics could be a risk factor for celiac disease.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Epidemiology; Microbiome; Population.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Celiac Disease / chemically induced*
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology*
  • Celiac Disease / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Norway
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents