Apart from the creation of superbugs, overuse of antibiotics has negative consequences including killing many of our beneficial bacteria. In the grand scheme of things, little is known about the bacteria we live with, and how they individually as a species, and collectively in combinations forming biofilms, get affected by various exposures to our antibiotics. Insufficient research is being conducted to help us find the answers.
Some research has suggested that antibiotic use may play a role in conditions that lead to obesity, Type 1 Diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and even asthma, a common chronic airway disorder. Patient populations suffering from all of these chronic diseases appear to be increasing in prevalence, but very little is being done to understand if anything in contributing to all of these conditions as a group instead of just individually.
In agriculture, antibiotics have been used as “growth promoters” enabling farmers to increase their livestock yield, as their animals can gain more weight with less food. The influence of these antibiotics on the livestock we eat is likely to have some impact on our own bodies but this field has not yet been adequately investigated primarily due to lack of financial motivation. In Europe, where usage of antibiotics in livestock as growth promoters has been banned, it was determined that the same dollars spent on extra food resulted in the same growth as yielded by the additional antibiotics.
Given that antibiotics are a critical part of our medicinal arsenal, it is not likely that antibiotics will be replaced any time soon. However, it is important to start asking the questions and dedicate more resources to learning more about how the antibiotics we use directly and indirectly are truly affecting us. Once we learn more about this impact, then we can start to make progress in influencing the development of new alternatives and better approaches to antibiotic usage.