Single treatment with antibiotics wreaks havoc on your gut bacteria

November 17, 2015 - 05:55

Antibiotics have a hard time with multiresistant bacteria, but will easily kill off the healthy bacteria in your gut.

New research shows that just a single treatment of antibiotics may completely change the type and the amount of bacteria in the gut for up to a year and increase gut microbiome resistance to antibiotics. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Healthy people who undergo just a single treatment of antibiotics may completely change the type and the amount of bacteria in their gut for months, and in some cases up to a year.

The new research, led by scientists from the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK, is published in the scientific journal mBio, and suggests that this reorganisation of gut microbiome has significant implications for the immune system and digestion.

The scientists behind the new study warn that “even a single antibiotic treatment in healthy individuals contributes to the risk of resistance development and leads to long-lasting detrimental shifts in the gut microbiome.”

Increased resistance to antibiotics

29 Swedes and 37 Brits took part in the placebo-controlled trial. They were assigned to either a placebo group, or to a group given one of four types of antibiotics. The scientists behind the study analysed the microbes in their saliva and faeces, before and after taking one course of antibiotics or the placebo.

The amount and type of microbes were substantially altered in all of the groups who took antibiotics. The amount of so-called ‘healthy bacteria’ were significantly reduced by the antibiotic treatment.

In the faeces samples--indicative of gut microbes--this lasted for months and in some cases up to a year. But the microbes in saliva samples seemed to recover after just a few weeks, suggesting that these microbes are particularly resistant.

Genetic sequencing also revealed that certain antibiotic treatments were associated with an increase in microbe genes that are themselves associated with increased resistance to antibiotics.

“The health-related consequences for the gut microbiome should increase the awareness of the individual risks involved with antibiotic use, especially in a (diseased) population with an already dysregulated microbiome,” write the scientists behind the new research in the scientific journal mBio.

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