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Study says antibiotics can damage body's flu defences

Antibiotics can increase vulnerability to flu and worsen symptoms, a study has found
Antibiotics can increase vulnerability to flu and worsen symptoms, a study has found

By Jemma Crew

Antibiotics can increase vulnerability to flu and worsen symptoms, a study has found.

Flu defences in the lungs were weakened in mice with healthy gut bacteria who were given antibiotics before being infected, according to research published yesterday from the Francis Crick Institute.

Experts based at the biomedical research centre in London found that signals from gut bacteria kept antiviral genes in the lung lining active, helping maintain a first line of defence against flu.

A third of the mice survived when given antibiotics before becoming infected, compared to 80% who survived without the drugs.

Two days after infection, mice that had received antibiotics had five times more virus in their lungs, the study published in Cell Reports found.

As a result, the immune response was stronger and more damaging, leading to more severe symptoms.

Dr Andreas Wack, who led the research, said: "We found that antibiotics can wipe out early flu resistance, adding further evidence that they should not be taken or prescribed lightly.

"Inappropriate use not only promotes antibiotic resistance and kills helpful gut bacteria, but may also leave us more vulnerable to viruses.

"This could be relevant not only in humans but also livestock animals, as many farms around the world use antibiotics prophylactically."

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