A wide range of drugs have been found to harm our gut bacteria. In a study conducted by researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) , over one in four (250/923) non-antibiotic drugs were found to harm at least one species in the microbiome.
The effect of antibiotics on the intestinal flora has been well established but the full impact these drugs have has not been known until now. In a report published in Nature, this study directly profiled the interaction drugs have on our gut. “The number of unrelated drugs that hit gut microbes as collateral damage was surprising,” says Peer Bork, one of the lead researchers on the study. “Especially since we show that the actual number is likely to be even higher. This shift in the composition of our gut bacteria contributes to drug side-effects, but might also be part of the drugs’ beneficial action.”
The researchers also noted how non-antibiotic drugs may be promoting antibiotic resistance with general resistance mechanisms of microbes to human-targeted drugs and to antibiotics largely overlapping. “This is scary,” says Nassos Typas, “considering that we take many non-antibiotic drugs in our life, often for long periods.”
“Antibiotic resistance emergence is a quite a big health risk at the moment worldwide and I think aspects that could contribute to this emergence should be looked at very seriously,” said Patil.
Drugs tested on gut bacteria ranged from anti-cancer drugs to antipsychotics, proton-pump inhibitors and hormones. While most of the drugs tested were designed to work on human cells rather than bacteria, the researchers found that a quarter did indeed affect at least one strain in our gut bacteria. Over 40 drugs affected at least 10 strains. 14 of these drugs were not previously known to have an antibacterial effect.