Everyday, doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat infections in our bodies and address our serious health issues – but, have you ever wondered what happens to your microbiome during treatment? Or what kind of changes arise in your gut? A new study shows that the changes in our microbiome could be a little more permanent than we thought.

By Emilie Korsgaard Andreasen We all know that antibiotic treatments can be rough on the microbiome. It makes sense, right? Squashing all the bad bugs in your body with an all-in-one cure has got to have some collateral damage after all. Still, just how much collateral are we talking? Well, new research investigated what could happen to all the good gut bugs when we're trying to weed out the bad. Here’s what you need to know about your gut bugs when you’re treating them to antibiotics.

Short treatment, long recovery

It’s long been acknowledged that antibiotic treatments typically lead to a reduction in microbial species diversity1. In cases where recovery of the microbial community is prolonged – or doesn't happen at all – the risk of colonization and overgrowth of pathogenic species is greater2. Now, these new findings demonstrate that even brief antibiotic exposure can lead to long term consequences for your gut composition – imagine recovery time of over a year for a short course of antibiotics!

These new findings demonstrate that even brief antibiotic exposure can lead to long term consequences for your gut composition – imagine recovery time of over a year for a short course of antibiotics!

One of the most common antibiotics used in health care today, clindamycin, appears to also have an even longer recovery time than initially anticipated, raising questions regarding the use of long-term courses of antibiotics and how they influence our gut microbiome compared to shorter courses3.

Keep your microbiome in the playing field

As if it’s not enough that poor diversity of good gut bugs makes you more vulnerable to getting the bad ones, there is also a risk of kicking your gut microbiome all the way out of the playing field. The researchers explained this effect with an analogy of valleys and balls: think of your gut microbiome as a ball resting in a valley, when antibiotics enter the body, the ball is kicked into another valley and may not be able to find its way back. In other words, your gut microbiome changes from one composition state to another – and perhaps permanently3.

Where do antibiotic cocktails leave your gut?

The human microbiome is a complex system and, while this new insight into the dynamic between antibiotics and the gut microbiome seems to indicate a relationship that is dicey at best, the researchers stress that one should be cautious to over-interpret the results. One study is not enough to conclude anything concrete concerning as complex a system as the microbial community of the human gut3. Still, these findings do suggest tendencies that should be fully explored, as well as highlight the importance of understanding the dynamics between antibiotics and the microbiome.

One of the most common antibiotics used in health care today, clindamycin, appears to also have an even longer recovery time than initially anticipated, raising questions regarding the use of long-term courses of antibiotics and how they influence our gut microbiome compared to shorter courses.

Antibiotics are sometimes sincerely necessary, but, the potential for collateral damage must also be considered when treating your body to a powerful cocktail of anti-gut bug medication. So, what’s the take home message? Antibiotics are an important tool to fight serious infections, nevertheless, make sure to take extra measures and help all the good bugs caught in the crossfire – think probiotics, for starters. There are numerous ways to improve your gut health and, by taking a closer look at your microbiome and adjusting your diet accordingly, you can improve conditions for your gut bugs. That's why GUTXY is here, to help you improve your gut microbiome and guide you to better gut health!

References

  1. Modi et al. (2014) Antibiotics and the gut microbiota. J Clin Invest. 2014;124:4212–8.
  2. Obadia et al. (2017) Probabilistic invasion underlies natural gut microbiome stability. Curr Biol. 2017;27:1999–2006.
  3. Shaw et al. (2019) Modelling microbiome recovery after antibiotics using a stability landscape framework. The ISME Journal.