Antibiotic Diabetes Risk Examined in Study

Danish researchers have identified a potential connection between the use of antibiotics and diabetes, raising further concerns about the widespread use of antibiotics throughout the U.S. 

In a study published online last week in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (PDF), researchers from the Center of Diabetes Research and other institutions in Denmark say that some antibiotics may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes due to their effects on gut bacteria.

Researchers launched the study amid increasing evidence that bacteria in the human gut may influence metabolism. Some antibiotics may kill off or alter the blend of that gut bacteria.

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The study looked at incidents of type 2 diabetes in the 5.6 million population of Denmark from January 2000 through December 2012, using data from the Danish Registry of Patients, the Danish National Prescription Registry and the Danish Person Registry.

The findings indicate that there may be a more than 50% increased risk of type 2 diabetes among those who filled five or more prescriptions for antibiotics during the study’s time period. The risks were slightly higher for narrow-spectrum and bactericidal antibiotics than it was for broad-spectrum and bacteriostatic antibiotics.

“A clear dose-response effect was seen with increasing cumulative load of antibiotics,” the researchers found. “The increased use of antibiotics in patients with type 2 diabetes was found up to 15 years before diagnosis of type 2 diabetes as well as after the diagnosis.”

Researchers did not find any specific class of antibiotics that they could link to the increased diabetes risk. The study also noted that the association could be due to an increased risk of infections among patients that had type 2 diabetes, but were not yet diagnosed.

Additional studies on the long-term effects of antibiotics on lipid and glucose metabolism, as well as weight gain, are necessary, according to the researchers.

“This may represent an increased demand for antibiotics from an increased risk of infections in patients with yet-undiagnosed diabetes, prediabetes, or manifest type 2 diabetes,” the researchers cautioned. “However, the possibility that antibiotics exposure increases diabetes risk cannot be excluded and deserves further investigation in interventional studies.”

Increasing concerns have surfaced in recent years over the widespread overuse of antibiotics, which many health experts indicate may result in the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that are more difficult to treat. It is widely recommended that doctors only prescribe antibiotics in cases of confirmed bacterial infections.

In June, the White House held a forum on antibiotic stewardship, calling for changes in how antibiotics are prescribed and used throughout the U.S., in order to slow the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

The White House originally signed Executive Order 13676 in September 2014, designating the fight against antibiotic resistance as a priority. In March, the Administration released a five year plan to combat and prevent antibiotic-resistance bacteria.


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