Antibiotics can weaken vaccination protection in children – Knowledge of SWR

According to a new study, the formation of antibodies and thus vaccination protection against diseases is reduced in children who have received antibiotics.

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Apparently, vaccines in young children who have received antibiotics have developed a lower protective effect. So report researchers from the US, who regularly examined and observed 560 children over a period of 6 to 24 months.

They published their results in the journal Pediatrics. In fact, a 2019 study previously reported that antibiotics may reduce the effectiveness of vaccinations in adults.

The study, which looked at children from Rochester, New York, is the first study to now show the link in young children – at an age when most vaccines are given.

Ideally, vaccines not only provide individual protection, but also prevent the further spread of a disease.

imago images

imago images / Shotshop

What exactly did American researchers discover?

In the serum of blood samples of 560 children, researchers checked the level of antibodies to vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, influenza and pneumococcus. Among them were 342 young children who received antibiotics during this period – they had significantly lower levels of antibodies than 218 children who did not receive antibiotics.

Antibody values ​​were below concentrations generally considered important for immune defense. This theoretically increases the risk of contracting infections against which they are actually vaccinated.

Giving antibiotics to young children may reduce the protective effect of vaccines.  (Photo: imago images, imago images / photo library)

Giving antibiotics to young children may reduce the protective effect of vaccines.

imago images

imago images / photo library

Antibody levels were particularly low when children were treated with antibiotics between the ages of 9 and 12 months, or when antibiotics were given repeatedly.

Suspected cause: Antibiotics alter the intestinal microbiome and kill bacteria that otherwise strengthen the immune system. Therefore, the immune response to vaccination is weaker.

What does it mean? Is not my child properly protected if they have been treated with antibiotics during infancy?

It has not been proven that there is no longer enough immune protection after treatment with antibiotics, because a vaccination not only stimulates the formation of antibodies, but also the formation of so-called memory cells.

Antibodies are only part of the immune response to a vaccine. Memory cell formation has not been studied. Experts assume that all vaccinated children have a certain level of protection through their immune memory.

And it obviously also depends on whether a combination of antibiotics is given or not. Interestingly, the broad-spectrum antibiotic used amoxicillin alone had no effect, but amoxocillin along with clavulanate could lead to a reduced number of antibodies after vaccination. It is important if the antibiotic is administered for 5 days or longer.

Children's hands hold colorful medicine pills.  (Photo: imago images, IMAGO / Imaginechina-Tuchong)

Antibiotics should not be given for a long time, especially in young children. And care must be taken to subsequently rebuild the intestinal flora.

imago images

IMAGO / Imaginechina-Tuchong

What should we pay more attention to in the future?

Researchers suggest that you think about a shorter duration of antibiotic treatment for young children.

To balance the effect of antibiotics on the immune system, probiotics can also be tested, which restore the microbiome faster. Because antibiotics also attack the beneficial bacteria of the intestinal microbiome. This is especially difficult with young children because the development of the intestinal flora is complete only between the ages of three and five years.

By administering probiotics – ie. bacteria that are beneficial to the intestinal flora – an attempt can be made to positively influence the recovery of the intestinal flora. Because when the intestinal flora is in balance, vaccines can also work better.

Antibiotics can upset the microbiome.  Probiotics can help restore the original balance.  (Photo: imago images, imago / CHROMORANGE)

Antibiotics can upset the microbiome. Probiotics can help restore the original balance.

imago images


In addition, vaccines may be suspended during the administration of antibiotics and subsequently compensated upon completion of therapy. To exclude a direct interaction.

A second vaccination, of course, can boost the immune response – experts say a follow-up check at age three or five can be helpful. But in most countries, the vaccines in the study still grow during childhood.

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