The human body needs both good and bad bacteria to defend against illness and maintain health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investing in projects to further understand the impact of antibiotics on this community of naturally-occurring germs called a microbiome.
“The microbiome controls immunity, regulates digestion and intestinal function, protects against infections, is important in brain health and even produces vitamins and nutrients,” commented Dr. Wayne Carr of Carr Chiropractic Clinic in Huron, SD.
Overuse of antibiotics creates an unbalanced microbiome and increases potential for catching, carrying and spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Careful monitoring and appropriate antibiotic use for symptoms of common infections is a key step for preventing further spread of untreatable illness.
Dr. Carr expanded, “Antibiotics can be life-saving and absolutely necessary. That being said, antibiotics today are over-prescribed and often unnecessary. A study published in The American Society for Microbiology found a one-week course of antibiotics could negatively affect your microbiome for long periods of time, potentially even for a whole year.”
Understanding the long-term impact can be difficult for individuals seeking relief from symptoms of common health conditions, such as respiratory and urinary infections.
“People are commonly prescribed antibiotics for urinary tract infections,” explained Dr. Eric Chow of Huron Regional Medical Center Physicians Clinic. “If you do not have symptoms of burning with urination, frequent urge to keep urinating, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting or flank pain, then it is unlikely you have a urinary tract infection and should not take antibiotics.”
While the “gut-drug relationship” has effects on an individual’s immunity, metabolism and susceptibility to infection, the impact is also seen in agriculture and the environment. Providing food-source animals with antibiotics is another, less obvious, avenue for human exposure.
The CDC recommends following these key tips to protect against antibiotic-resistant food-borne illness and to help maintain a healthy microbiome.
- Take antibiotics only when needed.
- Understand the importance and seriousness of antibiotic-resistant infections linked to contaminated food.
- Know who is most at risk for infection: Young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
- Follow simple Food Safety Tips.
- Report suspected outbreaks of illness from food to your local health department.
- Don’t prepare food for others if you have diarrhea or vomiting. Be especially careful preparing food for children, pregnant women, those in poor health and older adults.
- Review CDC’s Traveler’s Health recommendations when preparing to travel.
Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) is partnering with practitioners, pharmacists and system leadership as well as consumers to slow antibiotic-resistance bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections. Learn more about the available outreach, education and technical assistance for antibiotic stewardship, immunizations and infection prevention on our Web site.