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Antibiotics Can Help and Hurt Preemies

Philly researchers say the drugs can upset the natural immunity given by mom.

Some Pennsylvania researchers say antibiotics may disrupt the immunity a newborn gets naturally from its mother. And that can be dangerous for preemies.

Doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) studied neo-natal mice, because like human babies they produce more infection-fighting blood cells. Researchers say giving antibiotics to mothers or babies seems to interrupt a newborn's own immune response, making him or her more sucsceptible to life-threatening blood infections.

Senior author and CHOP neonatalogist G. Scott Worthen, M.D says, "because it is very difficult to determine whether critically ill newborns are infected with bacteria, these babies will continue to be treated with antibiotics, even as doctors strive to decrease antibiotic use as a long-term goal.

However, he added that, further investigation may reveal appropriate combinations of microbes that could be used to reconstitute infants' immune systems after they complete a course of antibiotics.


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