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Int J Eat Disord. 2016 Jun;49(6):542-52. doi: 10.1002/eat.22497. Epub 2016 Feb 15.

Increased use of antimicrobial medication in bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder prior to the eating disorder treatment.

Author information

Clinicum, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland.
Department of Adolescent Psychiatry, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.
Institute of Clinical Medicine, Child Psychiatry, University of Turku, Finland.
Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland.
Department of Psychiatry, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Finland.
Information Services Department, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland.
Department of Social Psychiatry, Tampere School of Public Health, Finland.



We examined the use of antimicrobial medication as a proxy for infections in large patient cohort treated for binge-eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa (BN), and anorexia nervosa (AN) over the five-year period preceding eating disorder treatment.


Patients (N = 1592) at the Eating Disorder Unit of Helsinki University Central Hospital between 2000 and 2010 were compared with matched general population controls (N = 6368). The study population was linked to the prescription data of antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral medication from the Register on Reimbursed Prescription Medicine. Data were analyzed using regression models.


Individuals with BN and BED had received more often antimicrobial medication prescriptions compared to their controls (OR: 1.7, 95% CI: 1.3-2.1; OR: 2.6, 95% CI: 1.4-4.6, respectively), while no significant difference emerged in AN (OR: 0.9, 95% CI: 0.7-1.0, p = 0.10). Of the main drug categories, the respective pattern was seen in antibacterial and antifungal medication, while increased use for antivirals appeared only in BN (OR: 1.6, 95% CI: 1.1-2.3). Measured with the mean number of prescriptions or mean Defined Daily Doses per individual, patients with BN, BED and males with AN had also higher total antimicrobial medication use.


Indicating increased infections, we found elevated use of antimicrobial medication in BN, BED and in males with AN. Infections may be consequence of hyperglycemia, weight gain, or dysregulation of intestinal microbiota associated with core eating disorder behaviors. Or the other way round; changes in intestinal microbiota due to infections, inflammation, or antibacterial medications might contribute to eating disorders in multiple ways. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2016; 49:542-552).


anorexia nervosa; binge-eating disorder; bulimia nervosa; eating disorders; infection; inflammation; pharmacoepidemiology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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