What exactly are antibiotics doing to our bodies?

We’ve talked a lot about antibiotics in the past as well as antibiotic resistant bacteria but it is still unknown exactly what all the effects of antibiotics are on the body and specifically our microbiome.  The increase in antibiotic resistance is a rising concern and this week President Obama and the White House announced that in their 2016 budget they would be doubling their investment in fighting antibiotic resistant bacteria to $1.2B this year. Antibiotics are essential for the treatment of bacterial infection; however, many individuals have adverse effects due to alterations of the microbiome and the increase of antibiotic resistance. These are very real concerns that are causing increasing public health issues and we are glad to see that this administration is continuing to make fighting antibiotic resistant bacteria a priority.

A study recently published in the journal Gut sought to further our understanding of the effects of antibiotics on the host. To look at the physiological effects of antibiotics, the scientists studied three groups of mice: regular germ-free mice; germ-free mice treated with antibiotics; and germ-free mice that were colonized with microbiota from antibiotic-treated normal mice. They found that the use of antibiotics influenced the host in three major ways: depletion of the overall microbiota; having a direct toxic effect on tissues in the host; and the increase of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the microbiota. The researchers also found that the antibiotic-resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were involved in mitochondrial damage, leading to mitochondria-dependent apoptosis (or programmed cell death) in the epithelial tissue of the intestines.

While antibiotics save lives and are incredibly important in fighting bacterial infection, they can also have very unpleasant effects such as local immunodeficiency and cell death. This study took an important, in depth look at the effects of antibiotics on the physiology of the host the effects on the microbiome.        

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