Early life antibiotics and childhood gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review

Kim Kamphorst, Emmy Van Daele, Arine M. Vlieger, Joost G. Daams, Jan Knol, Ruurd M. Van Elburg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background In adults, there is increasing evidence for an association between antibiotic use and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders but in children, the evidence is scarce. Objective Assess the association between exposure to antibiotics in the first 2 years of life in term born children and the presence of chronic GI disorders later in childhood. Design For this systematic review the MEDLINE, Embase, WHO trial register and Web of Science were systematically searched from inception to 8 June 2020. Title and abstract screening (n=12 219), full-text screening (n=132) as well as the quality assessment with the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale were independently performed by two researchers. Main outcome measures The association between antibiotics and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (n=6), eosinophilic oesophagitis (EoE) (n=5), coeliac disease (CeD) (n=6), infantile colics (n=3), functional constipation (n=2), recurrent abdominal pain, regurgitation, functional diarrhoea and infant dyschezia were examined. Results Twenty-two studies were included, 11 cohort and 11 case-control studies. A best evidence synthesis showed strong evidence for an association between antibiotic exposure in the first 2 years of life and the presence of IBD, and CeD during childhood. Moderate evidence was found for an association with EoE and no association with functional constipation in the first year of life. There was insufficient evidence for the other studied disorders. Conclusions The use of antibiotics in early life may increase the risk of GI disorders later in life. Further studies are necessary to unravel the underlying mechanisms and determine potential preventive measures. Meanwhile judicious use of antibiotics in early childhood is highly warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001028
JournalBMJ Paediatrics Open
Issue number1
Early online date3 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • epidemiology
  • gastroenterology
  • neonatology


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