Antibiotics allow Salmonella to ‘breathe’ inside of your body, thereby favouring the growth of these harmful bacteria, says a study published in Cell Host Microbe.
Antibiotics are notorious in modern medicine for their double-edged-sword aspect: they are efficient at combatting bacterial infection, but they might also encourage the growth of the pathogens. What makes matters more delicate is that this drawback of antibiotics is not fully understood by scientists. This question is addressed in the new study.
Led by Andreas Bäumler, professor of medical immunology and microbiology from UC Davis Health System, the team identified the post-antibiotic-treament series of events occurring in the lumen of the gut; this chain of reactions involve how the antibiotics promote the growth of the harmful microbes.
The researchers have found that antibiotics deplete good gut bacteria, the ones that are useful to the body without harming it. This activity was focused on those microbes that assist the body in breaking down vegetables, separating them from fibre, to produce organic acid butyrate that serve as energy source for the absorption of water by large intestine cells. Without these bacteria, the body cannot use fibre, and the body cells cannot consume oxygen, such that the latter accumulates in the gut lumen, bringing about a condition conducive for the growth of Salmonella. The latter is unlike the useful gut bacteria which need anaerobic conditions to function, and it ‘breathes’ oxygen.
This is how, according to the authors, antibiotics allow the harmful pathogens (in this case, Salmonella) to breathe and grow.
New techniques to protect from the side effects of antibiotics might see the light of the day thanks to this research.