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How Antibiotic Use Duration Impacts Mortality Risk

March 26, 2018

Women who use antibiotics for long periods of time may have an increased risk of overall and heart disease-specific mortality, according to a new study.

Findings from the study were presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2018, which is taking place from March 20 to 23, 2018, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

From 2004 to 2012, Lu Qi, M.D., Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Tulane University in New Orleans, and colleagues evaluated 37,510 women aged 60 years or older who were free of heart disease and cancer at baseline.

Participants were classified based on the self-reported duration of antibiotic use (no use, less than 15 days of use, 15 days to less than 2 months of use, or 2 or more months of use).

Findings revealed that women who used antibiotics for 2 months or more during late adulthood had an 27% increased risk of all-cause mortality compared with those who did not use antibiotics. This association was most prominent among women who also reported long-term antibiotic use during middle adulthood.

For the risk of cardiovascular mortality in particular, women who used antibiotics had a 58% higher risk of mortality compared with those who did not use antibiotics.

The researchers noted that no significant association was observed between antibiotic use and cancer-related mortality.

“Although we observed a notable association between long-term antibiotic use and risk of death, it isn’t yet clear whether long-term antibiotic use is the specific cause of the association. For example, women who reported antibiotic use might be sicker in other unmeasured ways,” Qi said in a press release.

“These results, however, contribute to a better understanding of risk factors for all-cause and cardiovascular death,” Qi continued. “We now have good evidence that people who take antibiotics for long periods during adulthood may be a high-risk group to target for risk-factor modification to prevent heart disease and death.”

—Christina Vogt

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