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April 29, 2000

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from British Columbia, Canada:

Are there statistics on pregnant and/or nursing mothers taking antibiotics and their children developing type 1 diabetes? My ten year old son was diagnosed with type 1 and the only other diabetes in our family was my mother-in-law with type 2.


As a practicing pediatric diabetologist for more than 20 years, I don’t know of any information that would indicate problems with mothers taking antibiotics and any relationship with development of type 1 diabetes. I would guess that you have the susceptibility gene in one or both sides of the family and that something in the environment like a common virus set up the autoimmune process in your ten year old son. Not likely anything that you did or anyone did to you — that we know of — during pregnancy.

Additional comments from Dr. Tessa Lebinger:

Although there have been many environmental factors which have been implicated as possibly contributing to the development of diabetes (both prenatal and postnatal), I have never heard of prenatal antibiotics as one. Even if it did increase the risk slightly, the risk of an untreated infection in the mother would probably be greater for both the mother and baby. If you read the section on heredity in diabetes, most newly diagnosed children have no family history.

Additional comments from Dr. Donough O’Brien:

Although the autoimmune process leading to Type 1A Diabetes is now known to start soon after birth, it is unlikely that antibiotics taken by you during pregnancy would have been responsible for the clinical onset at ten years of age. The negative family history is common.