Antibiotics and asthma

Published on May 28, 2004 12:28 PM IST

The pill that you pop down to cure asthma might be one responsible for the problem in the first place.

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PTI | ByAsian News International, Washington

The pill that you pop down to ward off your allergy or to cure asthma might be the one responsible for the problem in the first place.

A new study conducted by scientists from the University of Michigan Medical School has revealed that antibiotics are responsible for the growing incidence of immunity- related disorders such as allergies and Asthma.

Gary B. Huffnagle, the lead researcher said, "We all have a unique microbial fingerprint - a specific mix of bacteria and fungi living in our stomach and intestines."

"Antibiotics knock out bacteria in the gut, allowing fungi to take over temporarily until the bacteria grow back after the antibiotics are stopped. Our research indicates that altering intestinal microflora this way can lead to changes in the entire immune system, which may produce symptoms elsewhere in the body," he said

"Anything you inhale, you also swallow. "So the immune cells in your GI tract are exposed directly to airborne allergens and particulates. This triggers a response from immune cells in the GI tract to generate regulatory T cells, which then travel through the bloodstream searching the body for these antigens. These regulatory T cells block the development of allergic T cell responses in the lungs and sinuses," he added.

To test his hypothesis, Mairi C. Noverr gave a five-day course of oral antibiotics to normal lab mice followed by a single oral introduction of the yeast, Candida albicans, to create a consistent, reproducible colony of microbes in the stomach and intestines.

Two days after stopping the antibiotics, Noverr exposed the mice to a common mold allergen called Aspergillus fumigatus by inoculating spores into the nasal cavities of all the mice.

She then examined the mice for the presence of an allergic response in the airways and compared results between the mice that received antibiotics and those that did not.

"Mice treated with antibiotics and colonized with C. albicans showed increased pulmonary hypersensitivity to A. fumigatus compared with mice that didn't receive antibiotics. The inflammatory response grew stronger with every exposure to the allergen," she said.

"After antibiotics changed the mix of microbes in the GI tract, the mice developed an allergic response in the lungs when exposed to common mold spores. Mice that didn't receive the antibiotics were able to fight off the mold spores," Huffnagle said.

"If we can determine exactly how microflora in the GI tract affect the immune system, it may be possible one day to prevent or treat allergies and inflammatory diseases with diet changes or probiotics - dietary supplements of 'healthy' bacteria designed to restore the normal balance of microbes in the gut," Huffnagle added.

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