While it’s long been known that antibiotic use can cause problems for patients owing to the killing off of beneficial microbes throughout the body, notable further effects on human health have otherwise been sparsely recorded by the health/science establishment.
New research supported by Oregon State University, the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon, and the National Institutes of Health, is changing this though. Antibiotic use — especially long-term use — can have significantly greater, more far-reaching, “negative” effects than was previously reported/thought.
While anecdotal evidence over the last decade or so has suggested that antibiotic use could have side effects impacting everything from immune health, to glucose metabolism/diabetes, to food absorption, to mental/endocrine-system health, to obesity, etc; this work is the first to demonstrate and explore the mechanisms behind these observations.
Considering that in the US and Europe roughly 40% of all adults and 70% of all children take at least one antibiotic a year — and nearly all industrially farmed livestock are subjected to them regularly — the issue is rather an important one.
“Just in the past decade a whole new universe has opened up about the far-reaching effects of antibiotic use, and now we’re exploring it,” stated Andrey Morgun, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy. “The study of microbiota is just exploding. Nothing we find would surprise me at this point.”
“Prior to this most people thought antibiotics only depleted microbiota and diminished several important immune functions that take place in the gut,” Morgun said. “Actually that’s only about one-third of the picture. They also kill intestinal epithelium. Destruction of the intestinal epithelium is important because this is the site of nutrient absorption, part of our immune system and it has other biological functions that play a role in human health.”
“The research also found that antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant microbes caused significant changes in mitochondrial function, which in turn can lead to more epithelial cell death. Mitochondria plays a major role in cell signaling, growth and energy production, and for good health they need to function properly.”
“But the relationship of antibiotics to mitochondria may go back a long way. In evolution, mitochondria descended from bacteria, which were some of the earliest life forms, and different bacteria competed with each other for survival. That an antibiotic would still selectively attack the portion of a cell that most closely resembles bacteria may be a throwback to that ingrained sense of competition and the very evolution of life.”
Interestingly, the research also found that one of the genes affected by the use of antibiotics is “critical” to communication between the host and microbes.
“When the host microbe communication system gets out of balance it can lead to a chain of seemingly unrelated problems,” Morgun explained.
These seemingly unrelated problems aren’t all that unrelated to my mind though — but perhaps that’s just me. They are: digestive disfunction/malabsorption, ulcers, obesity, immune system disfunction, sepsis, allergies, asthma, and hormonal problems.
The new findings were published online in the journal Gut.
Image Credit: Wiki CC