Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health
Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health

Many non-antibiotic pharmaceutical drugs affect the growth of our gut microbes

They also promote resistance to antibiotics

It is not only antibiotics that devastate our microbial biome

Another indictment of the pharmaceutical industry

References

It is not only antibiotics that devastate our microbial biome

A quarter of all pharmaceutical drugs affect the growth of bacteria in your body, according to a 2018 study. (1) Drugs were selected from all therapeutic classes, including antipsychotics, proton-pump inhibitors such as omeprazole, calcium-channel blockers, antihistamines, painkillers, hormone mimickers and anti-cancer drugs. The researchers screened more than 1,000 marketed drugs against 40 representative gut bacterial strains. They found that 24% of the drugs they tested inhibited the growth of at least one strain of common representative gut bacteria. The worst offenders were the chemically diverse group of antipsychotics.

The researchers also found that the same bacterial species were often susceptible to both antibiotics and some of the drugs tested, so the bacteria have common pharmaceutical resistance mechanisms. This means the gut bacteria of patients consuming drugs like painkillers or proton-pump inhibitors might evolve a resistance that they then pass on to a pathogen that subsequently infects the body. There is therefore a risk that non-antibiotic drugs can promote antibiotic resistance.

Our body's microbiome plays a vital role in our health. In particular, the gut microbiome affects our immune system and our digestion. Upsets of the biome have been linked to a host of diseases including autoimmune diseases, obesity, digestive disorders, asthma and numerous psychological and brain disorders.

Another indictment of the pharmaceutical industry

These non-antibiotic drugs not only inhibit good bacteria, but they may also promote the growth of harmful bacteria and other microbes. For example, a study found that the top diabetes drug metformin works by encouraging the growth of certain bacteria, particularly Akkermansia and Bifidobacterium. (2) Athanasios Typas, commenting on the more recent study (1), suggested that some pharmaceutical drugs work by affecting gut microbes - a possibility the drug originators and pharmaceutical companies have been largely unaware of until now.

"This 25% estimate is likely to be valid even if we include more drugs in the screen," said Kiran Patil, one of the scientists in study (1). He also drew attention to the wide range of drugs tested.

Athanasios Typas said both pathogens and good bacteria were affected by the drugs, with the good bacteria being worst affected. "Most non-antibiotics target one or a handful of species from the species we tested. But there are 40 non-antibiotics that target 10 or more species" Typas noted.

Patil and Typas said that non-antibiotic drugs that affect gut microbiomes had more antibiotic-like side effects, such as gastrointestinal problems. Their findings may help explain some of the terrible side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.

References

1. Lisa Maier, Mihaela Pruteanu, Michael Kuhn, Georg Zeller, Anja Telzerow, Exene Erin Anderson, Ana Rita Brochado, Keith Conrad Fernandez, Hitomi Dose, Hirotada Mori, Kiran Raosaheb Patil, Peer Bork, Athanasios Typas. Extensive impact of non-antibiotic drugs on human gut bacteria. Nature. Published 19 March 2018. doi:10.1038/nature25979.

2. Forslund, K. et al. Disentangling type 2 diabetes and metformin treatment signatures in the human gut microbiota. Nature 528, 262-266 (2015)