What About The Flu Shot
The CDC recommends everyone age 6 months and older get an annual flu shot. This includes people who are immunocompromised. A weakened immune system raises your risk for serious complications if you get the flu.
While the flu shot may not work as well in people receiving certain immunosuppressants, it still offers some important protection.
But people taking medications that weaken your immune system should avoid getting the nasal spray flu vaccine. This form of the flu vaccine contains live flu virus. If your immune system isnt functioning well, you could actually get the flu.
Any of the currently available flu shots are OK if you have a weakened immune system. Unlike the nasal spray vaccine, flu shots contain inactivated flu virus that cant cause you to get the flu.
Researchers Found That In Mice Antibiotics Can Directly Remodel The Biochemical Environment Of Cells During Infection Sometimes Deleteriously
By Karen Zusi, Broad Communications
WHAT THEY FOUND
- During antibiotic treatment in mice, the drugs triggered metabolic responses from host cells that could actually protect bacteria
- Metabolites induced by antibiotic treatment made the antibiotic less effective at killing bacteria
- Antibiotic exposure reduced the ability of macrophages to engulf and kill bacteria
WHY IT MATTERS
- Interactions between antibiotics and their environment can inform predictions of how a drug might work in different people or in different infections
- In the face of the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, understanding the complex events following antibiotic treatment is critical for formulating better treatments
Antibiotics normally act in concert with an organisms immune system to eliminate an infection. However, the drugs can have broad side effects, including eliminating good bacteria in the course of fighting off a pathogen. A new study led by researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, MIT, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has shown that antibiotics can also reduce the ability of mouse immune cells to kill bacteria, and that changes to the biochemical environment directly elicited by treatment can protect the bacterial pathogen. The work was published today in Cell Host & Microbe.
How Do Antibiotics Work
An antibiotic is a drug that fights bacteria. Antibiotics can also be called antimicrobials, but this is a broader term that includes drugs that fight bacteria or other types of microbes, such as viruses or fungi. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, such as those that cause colds and flu.
Antibiotics work in many different ways. They might kill bacteria, or merely disable them or slow down their multiplication, giving the immune system more time to clear the infection. Many antibiotics stop the bacteria from making proteins, which is essential for survival and multiplication. Others interfere with their ability to copy DNA.
Penicillin, the first antibiotic to be developed as a medicine, blocks the construction of the bacteriums cell wall. With this important part of its structure weakened, the cell can easily rupture. Daptomycin disrupts the integrity of the cell membrane, allowing ions or small molecules to leak in and out of the cell, which can also be lethal to bacteria.
Some antibiotics, described as narrow-spectrum, are only effective against specific types of bacteria, while broad-spectrum drugs can fight a wide range.
All antibiotics will have some effect on the bacteria that normally live inside our bodies and contribute to our health, the microbiome. As a side effect, they may kill some bacteria that are good for us, and make it easier for other bacteria to take their place.
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What Are Resistant Bacteria
Each time you take an antibiotic, bacteria are killed. Sometimes, bacteria causing infections are already resistant to prescribed antibiotics. Bacteria may also become resistant during treatment of an infection. Resistant bacteria do not respond to the antibiotics and continue to cause infection. A common misconception is that a person’s body becomes resistant to specific medicines. However, it is the bacteria, not people, that become resistant to the medicines.
Each time you take or give your child an antibiotic unnecessarily or improperly, you increase the chance of developing medicine-resistant bacteria. Therefore, it is critically important to take antibiotics only when necessary. Because of these resistant bacteria, some diseases that used to be easy to treat are now becoming nearly impossible to treat.
Bacteria can develop resistance to certain medicines:
Not Getting Enough Sleep Has No Effect On Your Immune System
Myth. There’s a strong link between sleep and a healthy immune system. But not just any sleep will do. Restorative sleep, which means enough sleep to get the body back into fighting shape, is key.
Sleep needs vary by person, but most adults need 7-8 hours a night. Teens need 9-10 hours, school-aged kids need at least 10 hours, preschoolers need 11-12 hours, and newborns need 16-18 hours.
Over the past few decades, though, the average time asleep has dropped to less than 7 hours a night for adults. If you sleep less than your body needs, youâll build up a sleep debt. And you can’t make that up with naps or by sleeping in on weekends. Bottom line: Get to bed at a time when you know you can sleep at least 7 hours.
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Gut Bacteria And Immune Health
Most importantly, a takeover of bad bacteria can dramatically affect immunity and leave room for infection, disease and chronic illnesses to develop. The gut is the first line of communication between the external environment and the immune system. The two work together to mutually regulate our bodys reaction to harmful pathogens.
But when the immune system and gut are working together, things are working smoothly. This encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria, which improves immunity and gut function. It creates stronger responses to pathogens while makes the body more tolerant to your natural gut bacteria.
Kids Need Supplements To Build A Healthy Immune System
Myth.Vitamins and minerals matter for kids too, but they should get them from eating nutritious foods. If your child is a picky eater, a vegetarian, or a vegan, your doctor may recommend a supplement. Remember: Though you can buy childrenâs vitamins over-the-counter, they are still drugs. Taken excessively, they can be toxic.
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Our Bodies Already Fight Off Infections
The findings bring focus to the level of function of the SCFAs when it comes to oral health.
The study shows that these short-chain fatty acids promote the proper function of Th-17 and Treg cells and that this protects us from oral fungal infections, reduces damaging inflammation, and helps the bodys immune system resolve Candida infections of the mouth, said Dr. Aileen Marty, a professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University College of Medicine.
We need those SCFAs to power up our white blood cells the Th-17 and Treg cells to protect us from sickness.
While many cells in the body play some roles in protecting us against infections, the primary responsibility of white blood cells, Marty added. White blood cells are the professional soldiers against infection, while other cells perform protective roles more as deputized citizen militia.
These natural defenses had no problem fighting off inflammation and infection on their own, but antibiotics can prevent these defenses from doing their job.
Researchers stress that physicians must be sure that antibiotics are really necessary to treat an infection before prescribing them.
Needless overuse of antibiotics isnt helpful, the study suggested.
We have good bacteria doing good work every day, why kill them? Pandiyan noted in the statement. As is the case with many infections, if you leave them alone, they will leave on their own.
Medications That Weaken Your Immune System And Fungal Infections
Overall, most serious fungal infections are rare, but they do happen. They are most common among people with weak immune systems. People with certain health conditions may need to take medications with side effects that can weaken your immune system and put you at risk for fungal infections.
Specifically, corticosteroids and TNF inhibitors are two types of medications that can increase your chances of getting a fungal infection.1
- Corticosteroids are medications that treat conditions including arthritis, asthma, allergic reactions, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, sarcoidosis, or inflammatory bowel disease.
- TNF inhibitors are medications that treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Some fungal infections can be serious, such as:
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Antibiotics And Your Gut
While your immune system is intact, your gut system may take a hit while taking antibiotics. C. diff infection is a possible side effect of antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . It causes severe diarrhea, can lead to severe colon damage and in some cases can be life-threatening.
C. diff occurs because antibiotics change the bacteria balance in the gut. “We have healthy bacteria throughout our bodies and our digestive tract. We call this the microbiome,” Dr. Appenheimer says. “Good bacteria in our digestive tract compete with certain types of bad bacteria, like C. diff. When we take antibiotics, it kills some of the good bacteria, creating space for other bacteria like C. diff to flourish.”
Typically, at some point, your gut bacteria bounce back. When this happens after taking antibiotics depends on many factors, like your general health and the specific antibiotics taken. In one very small October 2018 study in âNature Microbiologyâ, six weeks after taking a strong mix of antibiotics for four days, the microbiome of 12 people assigned male at birth was close to normal. Nine common species were still undetectable 6 months later.
Some people wonder if probiotics can help speed that process along. It’s possible, Dr. Appenheimer says, but the jury is still out.
How Long Does It Take To Repopulate The Gut With Good Bacteria
Theres no simple answer to this question because it depends on the state of your microbiome, the quality of your diet, any medication you take, your level of exercise and more. However, the gut microbiome is very adaptable and responds to positive lifestyle choices.
So if you eat a diet with lots of fiber-rich whole foods and add some probiotic foods or supplements, you can speed up your gut biome restoration. Plus, getting regular exercise, especially cardio, is associated with higher diversity in your gut.
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Protective Immunity To Intracellular Bacteria
Since antibiotic treatment appears to have a negative impact on host protective immunity to secondary bacterial infection, it is vitally important to determine the mechanism of this phenomenon. The basic cellular immune responses to Salmonella and Chlamydia infection have been elucidated in mouse models and share common features . As expected for intracellular bacteria, CD4 Th1 cells that express T-bet and produce IFN- are critical for bacterial clearance. Thus, mice lacking major histocompatibility complex class II-restricted T cells, T-bet, or IFN- succumb to primary infection with attenuated S. enterica serovar Typhimurium, an infection that resolves naturally in wild-type mice . In contrast, mice lacking MHC class I-restricted CD8 T cells or B cells display only minor deficiencies in clearing primary Salmonella infection . Similarly, mice lacking MHC class II-restricted CD4 T cells or IFN- have difficulty resolving primary Chlamydia infection , and yet, CD8 T cells or B cells are not essential . Together, these data point to a major role for CD4 Th1 cells in primary clearance of both Salmonella and Chlamydia infections. However, despite the fact that Salmonella and Chlamydia replicate intracellularly, antibody responses can play an important additive role during secondary infection . Thus, memory CD4 T cells and circulating antibody can both be involved in effective clearance of bacteria during secondary infection .
When Antibiotics Are Needed
Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. We rely on antibiotics to treat serious, life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia and , the bodys extreme response to an infection. Effective antibiotics are also needed for people who are at high risk for developing infections. Some of those at high risk for infections include patients undergoing surgery, patients with end-stage kidney disease, or patients receiving cancer therapy .
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Antibiotic Clearance Of Salmonella In The Mouse Model
Two different mouse models are commonly used to investigate the immune response to Salmonella infection . The first model involves infecting genetically resistant mice with virulent Salmonella Typhimurium, thus allowing detailed study of innate and adaptive immune responses during the natural resolution of Salmonella infection . The alternative approach is to infect genetically susceptible mice with attenuated Salmonella strains, again allowing basic analysis of immune responses to primary bacterial infection . The obvious caveat to this second model is that the bacteria used are not fully virulent however, the basic mechanism of primary clearance appears similar in both models. As noted above, protective immunity to secondary infection requires the cooperation of CD4 T cells and Salmonella-specific antibody responses. Importantly, in the genetically resistant model, protective immunity to reinfection can be transferred by antibody alone , making this model less useful for examining CD4 T cell memory. Since humans require MHC class II-restricted T cell responses for efficient resolution of Salmonella infection , the susceptible mouse model is often used when studying the protective role of CD4 T cells against secondary infection.
Do You Need To Strengthen Your Immune System After Taking Antibiotics
Antibiotics save lives by treating bacterial infections and by preventing infections in people at risk. You may have heard that antibiotics are bad for your immune system or that they cause diarrhea. The truth is that the world is a safer place with antibiotics, but you need to use them wisely.
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“In general, taking an antibiotic should not weaken your immune system, and they are often necessary to fight bacterial infections that could worsen without treatment,” says A. Ben Appenheimer, MD, infectious disease specialist and assistant professor in internal medicine at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
“While antibiotics don’t weaken your immune system, they can increase your risk of other types of infection, namely Clostridium difficile, or C. diff diarrhea, but this is not due to their effect on the immune system.”
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What You Need To Know About Fungal Infections
Fungal infections can range from mild to life-threatening. Some fungal infections are mild skin rashes, but others can have serious complications. Because of this, its important for you to seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid serious infection.
Fungal infections can look like bacterial or viral infections. If youre taking medicine to fight an infection and you arent getting better, ask your doctor about testing you for a fungal infection.
Where you live matters. Some disease-causing fungi are more common in certain parts of the world. If you live in or visit these areas and are taking medications that weaken the immune system, youre more likely to get these infections than the general population.7, 8, 12 For more information on travel-related illnesses, please see the CDC Travelers Health site.
The length of your treatment matters. Your healthcare provider can prescribe corticosteroids for short-term use or long-term use . Long-term corticosteroid use is more likely to increase your chance of getting a fungal infection.
Amount of medication . Higher doses of medications that weaken your immune system are more likely to increase your risk of getting a fungal infection.5, 11, 13, 14
Antibiotics Damage The Ability Of Our White Blood Cells
The bodys natural defenses are very effective in killing off certain oral infections and regulating inflammation, according to the research, which was published in Frontiers in Microbiology last month.
The research team examined resident bacteria in the body, their effect on the production of white blood cells, and the role they both play in combating infections of the mouth.
We set out to find out what happens when you dont have bacteria to fight a fungal infection, study lead Pushpa Pandiyan, PhD, an assistant professor of biological sciences in the School of Dental Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, said in a statement. What we found was that antibiotics can kill short-chain fatty acids produced by bodys own good bacteria.
When the body is healthy, it houses good bacteria that produce short chain fatty acids , which, in turn, promote the development and maintenance of white blood cells.
Those white blood cells called Tregs and Th-17 are then able to fight and protect us from fungal infections and harmful pathogens and keep inflammation at bay.
The researchers discovered that antibiotics destroyed the good bacteria, which, consequently, depleted the production of SCFAs and damaged the ability of white blood cells from fighting off fungal infections, such as Candida, in a laboratory setting.
In other words, the antibiotics hurt the bodys own immune response and made it difficult to protect itself against harmful germs.
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Antibiotics Are Overprescribed And Often Unnecessary
Overall, research has found that antibiotics can sometimes inhibit the work that the immune system performs to attack infections. And that’s not the only reason to be cautious.
“If an antibiotic isn’t needed to treat your infection, it can potentially harm you,” Dass notes. Side effects diarrhea, nausea, yeast infections, and vomiting can occur, she says.
Plus, taking antibiotics when they’re not needed increases antibiotic resistance. This “means the bacteria will be harder to treat because the bacteria can now overcome the antibiotic’s effects either by neutralizing the antibiotic or protecting the bacteria itself,” Dass says.
This is something the CDC describes as the “greatest public health challenge of our time.” Overprescription of antibiotics is rampant one-third of all outpatient prescriptions of antibiotics simply aren’t necessary. Put another way: Doctors write out 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions each year.
“Antibiotics are very commonly overused or misused,” says Dass. If you feel sick because of a cold, flu, or viral sinusitis, taking antibiotics won’t help with your symptoms or prevent the spread of the illness.
“By taking an antibiotic unnecessarily, studies show that there are longer hospitalizations, increased bacterial resistance, and more office visits to your doctor,” Dass says.