Pills that people take regularly for a variety of maladies could be fueling antibiotic resistance by changing the bacteria in the gut. A study examined the effects of 1,000 common medications on 40 intestinal bacterial strains and found that one out of every four drugs has a negative impact. The research, led by Georg Zeller, Peer Bork, Nassos Typas and Kiran Patil, was conducted at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).
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Included among the most harmful pills were simvastatin, a widely prescribed statin; tamoxifen, a breast cancer drug; and loratidin, a popular antihistamine medication used to treat hay fever.
“This is scary,” said Dr. Nassos Typas, of EMBL Heidelberg, Germany. “Considering that we take many non-antibiotic drugs in our life, often for long periods. We actually see drugs from all therapeutic classes impacting gut microbes. The most prominent from them are antipsychotics, antihypertensives, anti-cancer drugs, proton-pump inhibitors, antihistamines, painkillers and contraceptives.”
When infection-causing bacterial strains can no longer be eradicated with antibiotics, they become superbugs, a health threat that scientists consider one of the biggest on the globe. The problem has been largely attributed to the overuse of antibiotics, which damage the bacterial community in the gut called the microbiome.
However, the new study shows other factors might be contributing to the superbug threat. The researchers systematically tested drugs from a broad spectrum of therapeutic classes on individual bacterial strains and found some from every category impeded the growth of at least one strain. While recent discoveries have indicated that a few non-antibiotic drugs have a detrimental effect on the gut microbiome, the full scope of the phenomenon hasn’t been realized until now.
“The number of unrelated drugs that hit gut microbes as collateral damage was surprising,” said coauthor Peer Bork. “Especially since we show that the actual number is likely to be even higher. This shift in the composition of our gut bacteria contributes to drug side-effects, but might also be part of the drugs’ beneficial action.”
Superbug Crisis is Looming
Drug-resistant infections are responsible for 700,000 fatalities per year, a statistic that is projected to expand to 10 million by the year 2050, reported the World Health Organization (WHO). The oversight agency warned that if unstopped, the superbug crisis will eventually lead to a post-antibiotic era, when the infection-killing drugs are no longer effective against most microbes. Such a scenario would make common surgeries like hip replacements and caesarean sections terribly risky.
So what can you do to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of antibiotic resistance and contracting a superbug? Experts recommend stopping antibiotics early (as soon as you feel better) and opting for natural solutions whenever possible — learn more about the many effective natural options in our article Natural Alternatives to 10 of the Most Common Drugs.
The study was published in the journal Nature.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.