Upstaged by the Sturm and Drang of rising COVID cases in the media this week was far worse news about the health of our nation’s children. And in stark contrast to the science-bereft edicts keeping children out of school all over America and locked down again in many states, this bad news is backed by a credible study from a prestigious source.
The Mayo Clinic released the results of a study that demonstrated a strong association between administration of antibiotics to babies and toddlers and the onset of ADHD, asthma, eczema, obesity, allergies, and celiac disease later in childhood. Worse yet, multiple treatments with antibiotics before the age of two was associated with multiple conditions – a revelation that seems tragically and intuitively correct.
With the World Health Organization warning about a post-antibiotic age in which diseases such as malaria, gonorrhea, and tuberculosis are gaining resistance against Alexander Fleming’s groundbreaking discovery, this latest study is dire news indeed.
Senior study author Nathan LeBrasseur of the Mayo Clinic attempted to soften and spin the sobering news when he stated:
“We want to emphasize that this study shows association, not causation, of these conditions. These findings offer the opportunity to target future research to determine more reliable and safer approaches to timing, dosing, and types of antibiotics for children in this age group.”
This “correlation vs. causation” argument is a time-honored back-pedal by scientists when reporting on studies that have the potential to impugn the medical and scientific communities by association. Similar claims were made, for example, in 2010 when spokespersons for the “Vaccine Court” (National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program) strenuously labored to lowercase the news that Hannah Poling’s autism was the “result of” but was not “caused by” vaccines – a distinction with very little difference and a ruling conceded by the federal government. In both instances, two of modern medicine’s miracles – antibiotics and vaccines – were revealed to be associated with unforeseen and deeply concerning adverse events.
Some of the problem must be attributed to the liberal, even cavalier use of antibiotics such as penicillin in the last century. These remarkable drugs have been victims of their own success and have at times been over-prescribed by physicians as if a downside to such rampant use could never materialize. Antibiotics have also been used in massive quantities with livestock sold for consumption in the last decades, a further vector for introduction into our systems. Too much of a good thing may now have resulted in a bad thing occurring, as nature found a way to breach the antibiotic firewalls we have attempted to establish in our bodies via science.
Another pressing problem is that antibiotics are indiscriminate killers of both good and bad bacteria. It has only been in relatively recent years that alternative medicine protocols have emphasized the need for patients to take probiotics to replace the good bacteria needed to absorb nutrients, protect the system from pathogens, and break down food in the intestinal tract. Science has a way of singing the hallelujahs of its watershed discoveries while often demonstrating willful blindness to their potential impacts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in six children has a developmental disorder like ADD, ADHD, autism, hearing loss, learning disabilities, seizures, or stuttering. And according to an HHS (Health and Human Services) funded publication, 54% of children have a chronic illness, like diabetes, digestive allergies, epilepsy, seizure disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety issues, behavioral issues, chronic ear infections, depression, or bone and muscle disorders.
The idea that the dramatic increase in childhood illness may be in part caused by the very science we have relied on to safeguard our health is cause for consternation and grave concern. Or, as framed rhetorically by the Mayo Clinic:
“Additional research is warranted to establish practical guidelines to optimize the benefit and minimize the risk of antibiotics in children.”
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