Prior antibiotics and risk of subsequent Herpes zoster: A population-based case control study Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • BackgroundThe effect of antibiotics on the human microbiome is now well established, but their indirect effect on the related immune response is less clear. The possible association of Herpes zoster, which involves a reactivation of a previous varicella zoster virus infection, with prior antibiotic exposure might indicate a potential link with the immune response.MethodsA case-control study was carried out using a clinical database, the UK’s Clinical Practice Research Datalink. A total of 163,754 patients with varicella zoster virus infection and 331,559 age/sex matched controls were identified and their antibiotic exposure over the previous 10 years, and longer when data permitted, was identified. Conditional logistic regression was used to identify the association between antibiotic exposure and subsequent infection in terms of volume and timing.ResultsThe study found an association of antibiotic prescription and subsequent risk of varicella zoster virus infection (adjusted odds ratio of 1.50; 95%CIs: 1.42–1.58). The strongest association was with a first antibiotic over 10 years ago (aOR: 1.92; 95%CIs: 1.88–1.96) which was particularly pronounced in the younger age group of 18 to 50 (aOR 2.77; 95%CIs: 1.95–3.92).ConclusionsBy finding an association between prior antibiotics and Herpes zoster this study has shown that antibiotics may be involved in the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus. That effect, moreover, may be relatively long term. This indirect effect of antibiotics on viruses, possibly mediated through their effect on the microbiome and immune system, merits further study.

publication date

  • January 2022