The ironic tendency for the long term use of anti-biotic drugs to cause secondary bacterial infections over time has troubled medical science for decades.
However, thanks to a recent discovery by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, they may soon have a better understanding why.
The cause – as many of us in the natural health community have suspected for years – appears to be the destruction of beneficial bacteria that normally reside in the human digestive tract. It seems that the presence of this bacteria helps keep the body’s immune system better primed for action against transient, or “bad,” bacteria that may cause infection.
Professor of Microbiology and Pediatrics, Jeffrey Weiser, MD, gives the popular analogy of moving a car. That is to say, it’s significantly easier to move a car that’s engine is running at idle speed than one that hasn’t been switched on yet.
Senior author Jeffrey Weiser, MD, professor of Microbiology and Pediatrics:
“One of the complications of antibiotic therapy is secondary infection. This is a huge problem in hospitals, but there hasn’t been a mechanistic understanding of how that occurs. We suggest that if the immune system is on idle, and you treat someone with broad-spectrum antibiotics, then you turn the system off. The system is deprimed and will be less efficient at responding quickly to new infections.”
How does “Good” Bacteria Help Protect the Body from “Bad” Bacteria?
Resident beneficial bacteria appear to stimulate the production of a particular type of white blood cell, known as a neutrophil, which plays a large role in the human body’s natural ability to fight off foreign pathogens.
Not only do broad spectrum antibiotics kill off the infectious bacteria that causes illness, they also kill the harmless good bacteria as well. This essentially leads the neutrophils to enter a dormant state thereby slowing their response time when faced with a genuine threat. This gives invading bacteria an initial edge when it first enters the body.
How Can I Restore Beneficial Bacteria After Using Prescription Antibiotics?
Fortunately for individuals who have little choice but to use antibiotic drugs, studies in mice have shown that naturally occurring beneficial bacteria repopulate the digestive tract over time. This is because the bacteria itself is pulled directly from environmental sources such as air and water.