Antibiotics Can Disrupt Digestive Tract

The overuse of antibiotics is making the news again.  This time, a newly released study is indicating that not only does the antibiotic commonly known as <"">Cipro upset the bacterial balance in the digestive system, but those effects seem to be more long-lasting that first believed, reports The Canadian Press.

“You don’t want to be giving readers the impression that we shouldn’t be using antibiotics (when needed),” Dr. David Relman, senior author of the study told the Canadian Press.  However, his study found that digestive effects from Cipro, and the negative symptoms of those effects, were still present in healthy patients six months after cessation of antibiotic treatment.

The study, which was published this week in the journal PLoS Biology, found that at the six month mark, “good” bacteria in the digestive tract were either present at decreased levels or not at all present.

According to the Canadian Press report, Relman did agree that “we do overuse antibiotics” and that digestive disruption is “the flip side. It’s the trade-off part.”  Relman is an infectious diseases specialist at Stanford University and the Veteran Affairs Hospital at Palo Alto, California.  He conducted the study—funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the U.S. National Institutes of Health—with a team of colleagues, said the Canadian Press.

The study noted that because antibiotics cannot target one bacteria while ignoring others, people can develop problems such as yeast infections or the diarrheal illness, C. difficile, from taking them.

According to the Canadian Press, Relman’s team worked with three volunteers and the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, known as Cipro, which is considered the mildest of antibiotics when it comes to flora disruption.  All three volunteers received one course of treatment with Cipro.  The team “collected stool samples from their volunteers before they started, during treatment, and for months after,” reported The Canadian Press.

Although the study continues, actually extending out one year, and includes other volunteers, the article in PLoS Biology only refers to the first six months of study, said The Canadian Press.  Over that time, the researchers found that “the diversity in bacterial types” decreased by “about one-third.”  The large reduction surprised the team, according to Relman, who was also quoted by The Canadian Press as saying, “We find that Cipro was more disruptive than we had thought….  About 30 percent of all of the strains and species that we could see were disrupted.  And most of them were … either knocked out or knocked down.”

Both the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America have published guidelines meant to minimize the spread of the C. diff superbug that include avoiding the overuse of antibiotics.

Coincidentally, earlier this month, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that cases of the C. diff diarrhea bug have been seen in all 50 states.

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