Have Antibiotics ‘Shut Down’ Your Immune System?

Science & Medicine

antibioticNew evidence coming from the New University of British Columbia found that early antibiotic treatments (negatively) affect the health of our immune system and its ability to fight specific diseases later on. You may want to reconsider utilizing antibiotics offered by your health care practitioner.

This research corroborates with what other scientists have found – that gut bacteria is responsible for 80% of our immunity to disease. The problem with antibiotic treatments is that they do not discriminate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, thus compromising the necessary ratio of bacteria in the gut.

While over-using or misusing antibiotics at any age can have negative long and short term effects, altering our gut bacteria when we are young can be especially damaging. The early use of antibiotics has even been shown to cause obesity later in life. Giving an antibiotic to a toddler for an ear infection, a sore throat, or a host of other ailments may be the last thing parents should do.

The study, published recently in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, explains how different antibiotics affect good bacteria.

Kelly McNagny, a professor in the Dept. of Medical Genetics who led the research along with UBC microbiologist Brett Finlay, said:

“This is the first step to understanding which bacteria are absolutely necessary to develop a healthy immune system later in life.”

For the Study – Testing Antibiotics

The researchers tested the impact of two antibiotics, vancomycin and streptomycin, on newborn mice. They found that streptomycin increased susceptibility to a disease known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis later in life, but vancomycin had no effect. The difference in these antibiotics’ can be credited to how they each change the bacterial ecosystem in the gut.

The researchers stress that infants should be treated with antibiotics when needed, but they hope these results will help pinpoint which bacteria make us less susceptible to disease.

They did not, however, discuss the use of numerous antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial herbs which can be even more effective than antibiotics in many cases. Even honey and ginger could be more effective than many pharmaceuticals. They did suggest that probiotics might be a better way to boost immunity even in young children, though.

“Probiotics could be the next big trend in parenting because once you know which bacteria prevent disease, you can make sure that children get inoculated with those bacteria,” says McNagny.

Make no mistake, antibiotics have contributed a great deal to helping treat numerous issues, but what we now know is that with the benefits came some unknown dangers. In fact, antibiotic resistance (other negative side-effects aside), is such an issue that even the CDC says that the age of antibiotics must come to an end. At least as we know it today.