By DAVID PILDITCH
PUBLISHED: 07:27, Fri, Aug 28, 2015
Those given five or more prescriptions over a period of up to 15 years are up to 53 per cent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those given anti biotics just once or never, scientists have found.
The researchers in Denmark tracked 170,404 patients with Type 2 diabetes and 1.3 million who did not have the disease.
They found the risk of getting diabetes was highest in those given antibiotics that are effective against a narrow range of bacteria.
Study author Dr Kristian Mikkelsen said: “In our research we found people who have Type 2 diabetes used significantly more antibiotics up to 15 years prior to diagnosis compared to healthy controls.”
Dr Mikkelsen, of Gentofte Hospital in Hellerup, Denmark, said more research was needed because the findings did not prove that the drugs trigger diabetes.
Antibiotics, the main way of treating infections for more than 60 years, can alter the bugs living in the gut.
But an alternative explanation could be that people with undiagnosed diabetes may be more prone to infection and therefore use more antibiotics.
The influence of other key risk factors could not be ruled out and it might be that obesity and Type 2 diabetes cause an increased use of antibiotics, because both are thought to increase the risk of infection
Dr Mikkelsen said: “Although we cannot infer causality from this study, the findings raise the possibility that antibiotics could raise the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
“Diabetes is one of the greatest challenges facing modern health care, with a globally increasing incidence.
“Further investigation into long-term effect of antibiotic use on sugar metabolism and gut bacteria composition could reveal valuable answers about how to address this public health crisis. Patterns in antibiotic use may offer an opportunity to prevent the development of the disease or to diagnose it early.”
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the condition, accounting for 90 to 95 per cent of all cases.
The lives of four million people in Britain are now blighted by the disease and the epidemic is costing the NHS £10 billion a year.
In comparison, non-diabetics filled out 0.5 prescriptions a year.
Dr Richard Elliott, research communications officer at Diabetes UK, said the findings suggest an association between the use of antibiotics and Type 2 diabetes.
But he added: “They do not show that taking antibiotics causes Type 2 diabetes.
“The influence of other key risk factors could not be ruled out and it might be that obesity and Type 2 diabetes cause an increased use of antibiotics, because both are thought to increase the risk of infection.
“As the researchers themselves suggest, clinical trials are needed.”
The study comes just days after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published new guidelines after concerns that doctors are needlessly dishing out up to 10 million prescriptions for antibiotics every year.