Apart from antibiotic resistance, the overuse of antibiotics poses several other health risks. A new study has suggested that excessive use of antibiotics is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD) which is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that causes stiffness, problems with mobility, balance, and coordination.

The researchers from the Helsinki University Hospital, Finland have found a strong association for broad-spectrum antibiotics and several other drugs that act against anaerobic fungi and bacteria.

The study reports that overuse of certain antibiotic drugs can predispose to the nervous system disorder with a delay of up to 10-15 years. This connection might be explained by the disruptive effects on the gut microbial ecosystem caused by these drugs.

The study included data extracted from national registries and compared antibiotic exposure during the years 1998-2014 in 13,976 patients with PD and compared it with 40,697 individuals without the condition.

"The link between antibiotic exposure and Parkinson's disease fits the current view that in a significant proportion of patients the pathology of Parkinson's may originate in the gut, possibly related to microbial changes, years before the onset of typical Parkinson motor symptoms such as slowness, muscle stiffness and shaking of the extremities,” Science Daily Quoted the study’s lead researcher and neurologist Filip Scheperjans MD.

He also added that, although the exact cause is unclear, the bacterial composition of the intestine in Parkinson's patients is found to be abnormal. The findings of the study also suggested that some commonly used antibiotics, which are known to strongly influence the gut microbiota, could be a factor behind the predisposition to Parkinson’s disease.

About two decades prior to diagnosis, pathological changes typical of PD have been observed in the gut. The exposure to antibiotics has been found to cause such changes in the gut microbiome which are also associated with a higher risk of several other diseases like psychiatric disorders, Crohn’s disease, etc.

This new discovery might also have implications for antibiotic prescribing practices in the future. Apart from the issue of antibiotic resistance, antimicrobial prescribing should also consider potentially long-lasting effects on the gut microbiome and the development of certain health conditions.

antibiotics Doctors are taught that it is important to finish out a course of antibiotics, and they dutifully relay this information to their patients. Photo: Pexels