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A healthy diet could protect beneficial gut bacteria from being destroyed by antibiotics

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A healthy diet could protect beneficial gut bacteria from being destroyed by antibiotics, study finds

  • Antibiotics have been proven to change amounts and types of bacteria in the gut
  • One type of beneficial bacteria multiplied in mice guts after treatment with amoxicillin, which is mostly used to treat ear infections 
  • When the mice were fed glucose, it increased the healthy bacteria’s sensitivity to the antibiotic

What you eat could protect your gut bacteria from being destroyed by antibiotics, a new study suggests.

Research has shown that taking antibiotics – especially too many – can change the amounts and types of bacteria within the intestines.

But, in a study conducted on mice, researchers found that a healthy diet helped beneficial bacteria thrive and mitigated changes made by antibiotics. 

The team, from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, says the findings could lead to doctors potentially prescribing a diet – along with antibiotics – to patients so that they receive maximum benefits from treatment. 

A new study from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, found that adding glucose to a diet helped a certain type of beneficial bacteria flourish in the gut after it was treated with antibiotics (file image) 

‘Doctors now know that each antibiotic prescription has the potential to lead to some very harmful microbiome-related health outcomes,’ said co-author Dr Peter Belenky, an assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Brown University.

‘But they do not have reliable tools to protect this critical community while also treating deadly infections.

‘The goal of my lab is to identify new ways to protect the microbiome, which may alleviate some of the worst antibiotic side effects.’

For the study, published in Cell Metabolism, the team treated three groups of mice with different antibiotics.

They then monitored how bacteria composition in the mice guts changed after antibiotic treatment.

Out of all the antibiotics tested, amoxicillin – used to treat infections of the ear, nose, and throat – killed several kinds of gut bacteria and even changed the genes of the leftover bacteria. 

In humans, this can lead to infections from C diff, a bacterium that causes life-threatening colon inflammation after taking antibiotics that kill off both beneficial and harmful bacteria. 

But, one type of beneficial bacteria, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, actually multiplied after treatment with amoxicillin. 

And, when researchers added glucose – a simple sugar and the primary source of fuel for humans – to the diet of mice, it increased the sensitivity of this bacteria to amoxicillin. 

The team says this means that making changes to diet may be able to protect beneficial gut bacteria from being killed by antibiotics.

‘For a long time we’ve known that antibiotics impact the microbiome,’ Dr Belenky said. ‘We have also known that diet impacts the microbiome. This is the first paper that brings those two facts together.’ 

Dr Belenky says that, although the study in rodents may not directly translate to humans, the findings suggest there is ‘interplay’ between diet, the microbiome and antibiotics. 

‘Now that we know diet is important for bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics, we can ask new questions about which nutrients are have an impact and see if we can predict the influence of different diets,’ he said.    

For future research, the team plans to examine how fiber might impact gut bacteria after antibiotic treatment, and how diabetes might affect the susceptibility of gut bacteria to antibiotics.   


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