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Can antibiotics impair heart attack recovery?

Researchers studied the effects of antibiotics on the gut microbiome and heart attack recovery in experimental studies.

It is becoming clear that the microorganisms normally found in the human gut–or the “gut microbiome” – are essential for good health. The gut microbiome is involved in several physiological processes including the immune system response. If the balance of the microbiome is disturbed, for example by giving antibiotics that kill “helpful” microorganisms and allow “harmful” microorganisms to flourish, this can result in health consequences.

Antibiotics are often given to hospitalized patients to protect them from infection, but unfortunately, this may affect their recovery by unbalancing the gut microbiome. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, USA, and the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academica Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan investigated the effects of antibiotics on heart attack recovery in experimental studies in mice. They recently reported their findings in the journal Circulation.

Restoring the gut microbiome improved heart attack recovery in animal studies

In controlled experiments, the researchers gave broad-spectrum antibiotics to some mice, altering their gut microbiome, whilst control mice received no antibiotics. They then induced a heart attack injury in all the mice and compared the recovery and survival in the two groups. The researchers observed that mice treated with antibiotics were more likely to die.

In the antibiotic-treated mice, there was a reduced production of three short-chain fatty acids that are normally produced by the gut microbiome. This, in turn, diminished the immune response in the mice and affected heart attack recovery. In additional studies, the researchers found that giving fecal transplants to antibiotic-treated mice to restore the gut microbiome improved heart attack recovery rates. In other studies, pre-treating mice with probiotics to boost the gut microbiome before inducing an experimental heart attack led to cardioprotective effects and improved survival rates.

Antibiotics may disturb the gut microbiome and affect heart attack recovery

Although these are experimental animal studies, the researchers suggest that they have implications for clinical practice. Antibiotics should be used carefully in hospitalized patients to avoid disturbing the gut microbiome, as this may affect the immune system response and impact heart attack recovery.

Boosting the gut microbiome by giving probiotics may aid recovery in heart attack patients. Further studies on the short chain fatty acids normally produced by the gut microbiome may provide other therapies which could improve the immune system and aid heart attack recovery.

Written by Julie McShane, Medical Writer

Reference: University of Wisconsin-Madison. Press Release Oct 8, 2018. Recovering from a heart attack? Hold the antibiotics.

Julie Mcshane MA MB BS
Julie Mcshane MA MB BS
Julie studied medicine at the Universities of Cambridge and London, UK. Whilst in medical practice, she developed an interest in medical writing and moved to a career in medical communications. She worked with companies in London and Hong Kong on a wide variety of medical education projects. Originally from Ireland, Julie is now based in Dublin, where she is a freelance medical writer. She enjoys contributing to the Medical News Bulletin to help provide a source of accurate and clear information about the latest developments in medical research.


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