Since Dr. Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have changed the face of modern medicine and revolutionized the healthcare as we know it today. However, we have gradually come to the realization that overutiization of antibiotics is contributing to growing resistance. This means that infections that were previously treatable with antibiotic are not responding now because bacteria developed resistance to the medication. There is now a global push for us to use antibiotics more judiciously. There is no question that doctos have overutilized antibiotics, and part of the reason is because our patients have come to expect them! Some patients have felt that their doctor did not do a good job unless they walk out of the office with a prescription in hand. So we have justified writing prescriptions for antibiotic thinking it might help just in case without solid medical reasons.
Now there is another reason to be concerned. In a recent study published in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers gave healthy pregnant mice either a normal microbiome (collection of microbes or microorganisms that inhabit an environment like a body) or one that had been exposed to antibiotcs. Once the mice pups were born, they found that the microbiome changes had been passed on to the offspring. It is important to note that neither the mothers nor the pups ever received antibiotics which may mean that the effects of antibiotic treatment are long lasting and far reaching. Furthermore, there are human studies which linked antibiotic exposure to higher risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease. So the new study’s findings add to the evidence that antibiotic overuse may cause complications even beyond antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics undoubtedly save many lives, but we must not forget that there are serious downside risks to overutilizing this gift to mankind. Think about this next time you want your doctor to prescribe antibiotic for you.