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What Are the Downsides to Taking Antibiotics?

Lauri A. Hicks, DO, captain, US Public Health Service, director, Office of Antibiotic Stewardship, medical director, Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warns of the potential downsides to taking antibiotics.

Lauri A. Hicks, DO, captain, US Public Health Service, director, Office of Antibiotic Stewardship, medical director, Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warns of the potential downsides of taking antibiotics.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“We know that antibiotics only work to treat bacterial infections and there are certain bacterial infections, like pneumonia, that really require antibiotic treatment, [and] urinary tract infections, that require treatment. What [antibiotics] don’t treat are a lot of the common infections that are nagging, annoying infections that we encounter this time of year. So, the colds, the coughs, the aches, even influenza, or flu, [are] caused by a virus, and in those circumstances, antibiotics just don’t help at all and could, potentially, cause more harm than good.

The other point is that we want to make sure that when we’re taking antibiotics, [that] we really need them. Because each and every time we take an antibiotic, it changes the bacteria that live in and on our bodies. So, not only does that put us at an increased risk for a potential future antibiotic-resistant infection, but we’re learning more and more about the impact of antibiotics on the good bacteria that live in our gut, that we rely upon for our own health. We’re concerned that there are potential downstream effects of taking an antibiotic, especially when it’s not needed.”