Short course of antibiotics increases resistance risk

A course of antibiotics can create antibiotic resistance in normal gut bacteria lasting up to two years, scientists believe.

A reservoir of resistance genes in the gut can spread to pathogenic bacteria and extend their survival, a review found.

It suggests the long-term effects of even short antibiotic treatments are more significant than previously assumed.

Antibiotics can also change the makeup of microbial populations, which can lead to other illnesses. It also allows micro-organisms that are naturally resistant to the antibiotic to flourish.

The impact of antibiotic treatment on normal gut flora was previously thought to be short-term.

But scientists at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control who conducted the review of the evidence believe the changes could be potentially life-threatening.

Cecilia Jernberg from the institute said: ‘The long-term presence of resistance genes in human gut bacteria dramatically increases the probability of them being transferred to and exploited by harmful bacteria that pass through the gut.

‘This could reduce the success of future antibiotic treatments and potentially lead to new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.’

Scientists said the review highlights the necessity of using antibiotics prudently.

'This new information about the long-term impacts of antibiotics is of great importance to allow rational antibiotic administration guidelines to be put in place,' said Dr Jernberg.

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