Study reveals that some antibiotics prescribed during pregnancy are linked with birth defects
21 February 2020
In a study published this week by UCL, the use of health data has enabled researchers to assess the association between macrolide antibiotics and major malformations such as heart and genital defects.
According to the study, children of mothers who were prescribed macrolides – a class of drugs used to treat common bacterial infections – in the first trimester of pregnancy are at an increased risk of major birth defects when compared with penicillin. The authors, including HDR UK researcher Professor Ruth Gilbert, concluded that the drugs should be used ‘with caution.’ Professor Gilbert says “this study shows a low risk of birth defects associated with macrolide antibiotics, so it would be better to use alternative antibiotics during pregnancy for women with a bacterial infection. Untreated infection is damaging to the unborn baby, so women should not avoid antibiotics when they are needed.”
Researchers analysed data from 104,605 children born in the UK from 1990 to 2016 using a large UK primary care research database – the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). The size and quality of this database makes it possible to examine prescribing in pregnancy on rare outcomes such as birth defects in their children.
The research was funded by Child Health Research CIO Trust, China Scholarship Council, National Institute for Health Research and supported by Health Data Research UK.
You can read more about it in UCL’s press release here and the study is published in The BMJ.
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Professor Ruth Gilbert
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at University College London (UCL)
Professor Ruth Gilbert is a clinical epidemiologist, who trained in paediatrics. Currently, she is the Co-Director of the Children and Families Policy Research Unit and she is Theme Lead for...