New research claims antibiotics could actually affect the brain’s immune cells, reducing the risk of dementia.
We’re often told that antibiotics are causing more harm than good, as people develop resistance to them.
However, new research suggests that they do hold some benefits. Scientists from the University of Chicago have found that when they gave antibiotics to mice, it changed their gut bacteria – known as the micro biome – which boosted the brain’s immune cells.
This then led to the destruction of rogue proteins that cause the hallmark symptoms of memory loss and confusion.
Professor Sangram Sisodia, a neuroscientist from the University of Chicago, said:
‘We are exploring very new territory in how the gut influences brain health.
‘This is an area that people who work with neurodegenerative diseases are going to be increasingly interested in, because it could have an influence down the road on treatments.’
When someone develops Alzheimer’s disease, they develop what are known as amyloid clumps in the brain, which can lead to inflammation of the microglia – cells in the brain and spinal cord. It is these cells which also control the immune system and central nervous system.
In the research, mice were given antibiotics for five to six months, and then checked for levels of amyloid plaques. The mice in the antibiotics group had reduced amount of plaques and a higher amount of microglia cells, which were also more active.
While the study has been done on mice (so has yet to have any real standing in terms of treatments for those with dementia or at risk of it), it’s still exciting as it could point to further research potential that looks at the link between gut and brain health.
Study leader Dr Myles Minter said the research allowed scientists to explore the gut micro biome further.
‘We don’t propose a long term course of antibiotics is going to be a treatment – that is just absurd for a whole number of reasons.
‘Once you put ideas together from different fields that have largely long been believed to be segregated from one another, the possibilities are really amazing.’
Professor Sisodia adds:
‘There is probably not going to be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease for several generations, because we know there are changes occurring in the brain and central nervous system 15 to 20 years before clinical onset.
‘We have to find ways to intervene when a patient starts showing clinical signs, and if we learn how changes in gut bacteria affect onset or progression, or how the molecules they produce interact with the nervous system, we could use that to create a new kind of personalized medicine.’