Antibiotics found to actually COMPROMISE the immune system in some cases

While antibiotics work with our immune system to eliminate infections, the drugs often have side effects. A recent study by researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has determined that antibiotics can also “reduce the ability of mouse immune cells to kill bacteria.” Changes to the biochemical environment directly caused by treatment might even “protect the bacterial pathogen.”

Jason Yang, a postdoctoral scholar at the Broad Institute and MIT, said that antibiotics often interact with cells, especially immune cells, in unexpected ways. Yang, the study’s co-first author, added, “And the biochemical context, altered by antibiotics and cells in the surrounding tissue, matters when you’re trying to predict how a drug might work in different people or in different infections.”

Determining the various impacts of antibiotics is a priority for researchers and clinicians who are working on better treatments that can curb the threat of antibiotic resistance. Senior author James Collins, an institute member at Broad, professor at MIT, and core faculty member at the Wyss Institute, and his lab partners have previously proven that different types of antibiotics can harm mitochondria in mice and in human epithelial cells. Collins et al. also proved that bacterial susceptibility to drugs can be influenced by metabolites (small molecules) that are released by cells as “intermediates of their metabolic reactions.”

Yang and his team believe that antibiotic treatment might continue to transform the infection microenvironment in ways that affect bacteria and immune cells. The team looked into the matter by treating mice infected with Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria with ciprofloxacin, a commonly used antibiotic. The antibiotic was administered via the animals’ drinking water at concentrations relative to what a human would receive, and the team of researchers then took note of the biochemical changes in the mice.

The researchers discovered that the antibiotic treatment resulted in systemic changes in metabolites. However, while the treatment didn’t influence the microbiome, it acted directly on the mouse tissues. Further studies revealed that metabolites released by mouse cells made E. coli more resistant to ciprofloxacin. Antibiotic exposure also affected immune function by “inhibiting respiratory activity in immune cells.” Macrophages treated with ciprofloxacin were less effective at engulfing and killing E. coli bacteria.

The results implied that antibiotics can affect the immune system, and they showed the importance of the metabolic microenvironment when dealing with an infection. According to Yang, their work has shown that biochemical diversity might be a significant factor when it comes to different drug treatment outcomes. He continued that learning more about the “specific effects that antibiotics can have on different cells” can help us make decisions about how to effectively treat infections.

The team advised that more research is needed to translate their findings to human health. Collins concluded, “We need to do additional animal studies under a broader range of conditions with a broader range of antibiotics, and potentially measure metabolites in human patients undergoing treatment, to see what else might be happening.” (Related: 14 Natural Antibiotics And Antibacterials That Should Be In Every Home.)

Herbal remedies to replace antibiotics

If you’re concerned about the negative side effects of antibiotics, try these natural alternatives instead:

  • Coconut oil — Coconut oil contains a nutrient called lauric acid, which has natural antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. If taken regularly, coconut oil can even help prevent harmful pathogens from entering your digestive system.
  • Garlic  Garlic has natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
  • Grapefruit seed extract — Grapefruit seed extract contains a type of antioxidant called polyphenols that can help protect against ultraviolet damage, reduce joint inflammation, improve circulation, and promote cellular detoxification.

You can read more articles about other herbs and natural cures at

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