0647 GMT February 21, 2019
Researchers said the commonly administered drug ‘consumes’ an enzyme crucial for clearing up toxins in the lungs, telegraph.co.uk reported.
A study of 620 children found a link between babies who had regularly been given paracetamol and those who developed asthma by the age of 18.
It also revealed that in children with a particular variant of the glutathione S-transferase (GST) gene, GSTP1, the risk of asthma were 1.8 times higher having been given regular paracetamol.
"Paracetamol, on the other hand, consumes glutathione, reducing the body's capacity to deal with toxic exposure," said Xin Dai, who led the research at the University of Melbourne.
Approximately one in 11 children suffer from asthma in the UK and across all ages roughly 1,410 people die from the condition each year.
The children were recruited into the study before they were born because they were considered to be potentially at high risk of developing an allergy-related disease as they had at least one family member self-reported allergic disease.
After their birth, a research nurse rang the family every four weeks for the first 15 months, and then at 18 months and at two-years-old to ask how many days in the previous weeks had the child taken paracetamol.
When the children were 18-years-old they gave a blood or saliva sample, which was tested for variants of the GST genes: GSTT1, GSTM1 and GSTP1. They were also assessed for asthma, and a spirometry test was performed to measure the amount of air inhaled and exhaled when breathing through a mouthpiece.
"Our findings provide more evidence that paracetamol use in infancy may have an adverse effect on respiratory health for children with particular genetic profiles and could be a possible cause of asthma,” said Dai, presenting the results to the European Respiratory Society International Conference in Paris.
She cautioned that the study does no prove paracetamol causes asthma, and other scientists have pointed out the reason some babies require more paracetamol than others is a result of emerging respiratory problems which themselves may cause asthma, rather than the drug.