Antibiotics could raise risk of kidney stones, study says

Antibiotics are common drugs used to treat bacterial infections, such as strep throat and even pneumonia. But the medication may have some negative effects. It could raise your risk for kidney stones, according to a new report.

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Researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) recently conducted a study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, to determine if there was an association between the medicine and kidney stones.

To do so, they examined the health records of 13.8 million patients in Britain between 1994 and 2015. Of the group, they analyzed 26,000 patients with kidney stones who had prior antibiotic exposure, compared to nearly 260,000 control subjects.

After reviewing the results, they found that five classes of oral antibiotics were associated with a kidney stone diagnosis: sulfas, cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, nitrofurantoin, and broad-spectrum penicillins.

Individuals who’d received sulfa drugs were more than twice as likely to have kidney stones, and those who’d been given penicillins had a 27 percent increased risk of getting them.

The greatest risk was among children. The chances of kidney stones decreased over time. However, the risk remained elevated years after antibiotic use.

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The analysts noted other researchers have found that about 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in office visits are inappropriate. Jesse Jacob, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University, agrees.

“People take antibiotics just to be safe, but they don’t think about what some of the downsides are,” said Jacob, who was not a part of the trial. “For example, antibiotics can disrupt your gut microbiome. That change of what’s naturally in you can have consequences.”

Disruptions in the intestinal and urinary microbiome, good bacteria that live in the body, have been linked to the occurrence of kidney stones, CHOP experts said.

The scientists are not sure why, but they believe their findings may encourage further research. They hope to expand their investigations across broader populations “to better understand how variations in microbiome composition may influence the development of kidney stones,” they wrote.

“Their results don’t necessarily mean that antibiotics definitely cause kidney stones. It just goes to say that something is there. It needs just to be verified,” Jacob said. “The next time you think you need an antibiotic, ask your doctor, ‘is this an infection that antibiotics are going to help?’ That’s the conversation that needs to happen.”

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