Oregon State University researchers have released a study raising substantial concerns on the use of antibiotics in humans and livestock. It is estimated that 40% of adults and 70% of children take one or more antibiotics on an annual basis and they are used in abundance in the agricultural industry.
The research was published in the journal Gut and investigated the impact of four antibiotics provided to laboratory animals.
“Just in the past decade a whole new universe has opened up about the far-reaching effects of antibiotic use, and now we’re exploring it,” said Andrey Morgun, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy. “The study of microbiota is just exploding. Nothing we find would surprise me at this point.”
“Prior to this most people thought antibiotics only depleted microbiota and diminished several important immune functions that take place in the gut,” Morgun said. “Actually that’s only about one-third of the picture. They also kill intestinal epithelium. Destruction of the intestinal epithelium is important because this is the site of nutrient absorption, part of our immune system and it has other biological functions that play a role in human health.”
The study determined that antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant microbes caused significant changes in mitochondrial function, resulting in additional cell death.
Mitochondria are found in every cell and are the energy power house of the cell, involved in cell signaling, growth and energy production.
Antibiotic use also affects certain genes, linked to the immune response between the host and the bacteria. This can cause a host of problems such as obesity, food absorption, depression, immune function, sepsis, allergies and asthma.
Uncovering effects of antibiotics on the host and microbiota using transkingdom gene networks, Andrey Morgun et al., Gut, doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2014-308820, published online 22 January 2015, abstract.