Antibiotics and Growth: Interpret Benefits with Caution

Summary and Comment |
May 13, 2014

Antibiotics and Growth: Interpret Benefits with Caution

  1. F. Bruder Stapleton, MD

In a systematic review and meta-analysis, antibiotic therapy was associated with improved growth in children in low- and middle-income countries.

  1. F. Bruder Stapleton, MD

Antibiotic treatment has been suggested to improve growth in animals and humans. Investigators conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 randomized, controlled trials in low- and middle-income countries in which children (age range, 1 month-12 years) received antibiotics or placebo.

The studies included 4316 children. Type of antibiotic, length of treatment, length of follow-up, and participant age varied among the 10 studies. In pooled analysis, antibiotic use increased weight by 23.8 g/month (95% confidence interval, 4.3-43.3) and height by 0.04 cm/month (95% confidence interval, 0.00-0.07). The effect of antibiotics on weight was greatest in studies conducted in Africa and the effect on height was greatest in younger children.


The heterogeneity of the trials, absence of information about many factors that affect growth, and concerns about antibiotic resistance limit these results; therefore, routine use of antibiotics as a nutritional therapy should be considered cautiously. Certainly, appropriate use of antibiotic therapy is warranted and may support growth in children in resource-poor settings.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for F. Bruder Stapleton, MD at time of publication Grant / research support NIH-NCI Editorial boards UpToDate


Reader Comments (1)

arun chatterjee Physician, Pediatrics/Adolescent Medicine, personal clinic

it's difficult to agree to recommend antibiotic to children to all and sundry without any evidence of infection as a nutritional supplement only. however it should be given in its presence. the study is not very clear in this respect.

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