THURSDAY, March 24, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Long-term antibiotic use in midlife is associated with small decreases in cognition assessed seven years later, according to a study published online March 23 in PLOS ONE.

Raaj S. Mehta, M.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues used neuropsychological test data from 14,542 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II to examine the association between long-term antibiotic use and cognitive function.

The researchers found that women who reported at least two months of antibiotic exposure in midlife (mean age, 54.7 years) had lower mean cognitive scores seven years later when adjusting for age and educational attainment of the spouse and parent. Comparing antibiotic users to nonusers, mean differences included −0.11 standard units for the global composite score, −0.13 for a composite score of psychomotor speed and attention, and −0.10 for a composite score of learning and working memory. These differences persisted after adjusting for additional risk factors, including comorbid conditions.

“In summary, we found that chronic antibiotic use during midlife was associated with minor decreases in cognitive scores assessed a mean of seven years later,” the authors write. “These data provide a better understanding of potential complications of antibiotics throughout life, as well as generate hypotheses about the role of the gut microbiome in cognition.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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