To determine if the long-term use of antibiotics for the treatment of acne results in an increase in either of 2 common infectious illnesses: upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) or urinary tract infections.
Retrospective cohort study.
General Practice Research Database of the United Kingdom, London, England, from 1987 to 2002.
Patients with a diagnosis of acne.
Main Outcome Measure
The onset of either a URTI or a urinary tract infection.
Of 118 496 individuals with acne (age range, 15-35 years) who were identified in the General Practice Research Database, 84 977 (71.7%) received a topical or oral antibiotic (tetracyclines, erythromycin, or clindamycin) for treatment of their acne and 33 519 (28.3%) did not. Within the first year of observation, 18 281 (15.4%) of the patients with acne had at least 1 URTI, and within that year, the odds of a URTI developing among those receiving antibiotic treatment were 2.15 (95% confidence interval, 2.05-2.23; P<.001) times greater than among those who were not receiving antibiotic treatment. Multiple additional analyses, which were conducted to show that this effect was not an artifact of increased health care–seeking behavior among our cohorts, included comparing the cohorts of patients with acne with a cohort of patients with hypertension and the likelihood of developing a urinary tract infection.
Patients with acne who were receiving antibiotic treatment for acne were more likely to develop a URTI than those with acne who were not receiving such treatment. The true clinical importance of our findings will require further investigation.