Antibiotic therapy may pose previously unknown risks to asthma sufferers

By Mohamad Hamze 

Subtle changes to the gut microbiome from antibiotic treatments may have significant implications in asthma sufferers. It is understood that certain bacteria serve to regulate the growth of potentially harmful fungal microbes in the gut, but a recent study out of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center details how certain antibiotic therapy-induced alterations of the gut microbiota might exacerbate airway inflammation specifically.

            Certain fungi that reside in the human gastrointestinal tract are known to cause airway inflammation when inhaled. A study from Skalski et al. published in the journal PLOS Pathogens focused on a common house mite fungus Wallemia mellicola and how its growth in mice responded to regiments of antibiotics. Overexpansion of this fungus was observed in mice that underwent antibiotic treatment – a phenomenon which resulted in a greater likelihood of asthma-like airway inflammation upon future exposure to allergens.

            While this effect has not yet been studied in humans, W. mellicola is commonly found in our gut microbiota and its overgrowth may have similar consequences in asthma patients who are placed on antibiotic regiments. While the team at Cedars-Sinai acknowledge the possibility of using antifungal medications to counter this harmful overgrowth, they concede that further altering the gut microbiota might further “disrupt the balance of the intestinal microbial community” and pose more harm than help.  Consequently, these early studies imply the need for caution when prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics in asthma patients until more is understood about pharmaceutical dynamics in our own gut microbiome.

PLOS. (2018, September 20). Gut fungus exacerbates asthma in antibiotic-treated mice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from