Millions of antibiotics are prescribed each year. Although they can be incredibly effective at treating infections, antibiotics usually don’t just target the bacteria causing the infection. They also kill harmless bacteria that live in our gut and help us stay healthy. There is evidence that this disruption in the composition of the gut microbiome can last up to 2 years after antibiotic treatment. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and bloating are also common side effects of antibiotic use.

Dr Elisa Marroquin, assistant professor at Texas Christian University, USA, and co-author of the paper, explained:

“Like in a human community, we need people who have different professions because we don’t all know how to do each job. And the same goes with bacteria. We need a lot of different gut bacteria who know do different things.” .

“Even though we haven’t found a single definition of what a healthy gut microbiome is, one of the consistent things we see in healthy people is that they have a higher level of diversity and a greater variety of bacteria in the gut.”

Previous studies have demonstrated that taking probiotics can reduce the gastrointestinal side effects of antibiotics, but there has been some debate about whether taking probiotics alongside antibiotics can also preserve the diversity and composition of antibiotics. microbes in the gut. Some healthcare professionals are hesitant to recommend probiotics alongside antibiotics for fear of further altering the delicate balance of microbes in the patient’s gut.

A new article published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology reveals the first systematic review to assess the effect of taking probiotics alongside antibiotics on the diversity and composition of the human gut microbiome. Written by researchers from the School of Medical and Health Sciences of the Tecnológico de Monterrey, the University of Texas and Texas Christian University, the review assesses trends in 29 studies published over the past seven years. .

The authors found that taking probiotics with antibiotics can prevent or attenuate certain antibiotic-induced changes in the composition of the gut microbiome. Probiotics can also help protect species diversity and even restore populations of certain beneficial bacteria such as Faecalibacterium prausnitziiwhich reduces inflammation and promotes a healthy gut barrier.

Dr Elisa Marroquin said: “When participants take antibiotics, we see several consistent changes in certain bacterial species. But when the treatment was combined with probiotics, the majority of these changes were less pronounced and some changes were completely prevented.

“Given the human data available so far, there does not appear to be any reason to withhold a prescription for probiotics when antibiotics are prescribed.”

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Material provided by Microbiology Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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