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Often-Used Antibiotics Not Linked to Birth Defects

However, study suggests sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins warrant greater scrutiny

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Penicillins, erythromycins and cephalosporins, antibacterial drugs that are commonly used by women during pregnancy, are rarely associated with birth defects, but other antibacterial agents such as sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins are associated with several defects and warrant further scrutiny, according to a study in the November issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Krista S. Crider, Ph.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in Atlanta, and colleagues conducted a study of 13,155 women in 10 states whose babies were born with at least one of 30 birth defects, as well as 4,941 controls.

There was only one reported defect associated with use of penicillins, cephalosporins and quinolones, and two associated with erythromycins; however, sulfonamides were associated with a range of defects such as anencephaly, hypoplastic left heart syndrome and coarctation of the aorta, while nitrofurantoins were associated with atrial septal defects, cleft lip with cleft palate and other defects, the researchers found.

"Antibacterial exposure was common among pregnant women participating in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, with use increasing during the first trimester -- the critical developmental stage. Our study lends support to the established safety profiles for certain classes of antibacterials such as penicillins, erythromycins, and cephalosporins," the authors write. "However, several increased odds ratios were observed among women taking sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins, indicating a need for additional scrutiny."

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