Researchers have for the first time established a connection between the most commonly prescribed class of antibiotics and two types of heart conditions.
Researchers found that current users of fluoroquinolone antibiotics (such as Ciprofloxacin or Cipro) face a 2.4 times greater risk of developing aortic and mitral regurgitation compared to patients who take amoxicillin (a different type of antibiotic).
It should be noted that regurgitation—a condition where blood backflows into the heart—also happens with amoxicillin, just at a lower rate.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia in partnership with Canada’s Provincial Health Services Authority’s (PSHA) Therapeutic Evaluation Unit. The study was published September 10, 2109 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Recent studies have also linked the same class of antibiotics to other heart problems.
For the study, scientists first analyzed data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s adverse reporting system. Next they analyzed a massive private insurance health claims database in the U.S. that captures demographics, drug identification, dose prescribed and treatment duration.
All drugs come with risks
The researchers identified 12,505 cases of valvular regurgitation with 125,020 case-control subjects in a random sample of more than nine million patients.
They defined current fluoroquinolone exposure as an active prescription or 30 days prior to the adverse event; recent exposure as within days 31 to 60; and past exposure as within 61 to 365 days prior to an incident.
Scientists compared fluoroquinolone use with amoxicillin and azithromycin.
The results showed that the risk of aortic and mitral regurgitation is highest with current use, followed by recent use. They saw no increased risk aortic and mitral regurgitation with past use.
The researchers hope their study will serve both the public and medical industry. They suggested if a patient has cardiac issues and no other cause has been determined, fluoroquinolone antibiotics should be considered a possible cause.
“This study highlights the need to be thoughtful when prescribing antibiotics, which can sometimes cause harm. As a result of this work, we will continue working with the BC Antimicrobial Stewardship Committee to ensure the appropriate prescribing of this class of antibiotics to patients,” said Dr. Bruce Carleton, a lead researcher at PHSA.
Besides the risk of heart damage, related research has highlighted other dangers of antibiotics. This includes, most notably, the rise of “superbugs” and antibiotic resistance.
At this point virtually all researchers believe the use of antibiotics should be drastically curtailed; however, a reduction in prescribing antibiotics will only happen if both the medical industry and general public get on board.
It will require a change in thinking where antibiotics are used only for true emergency situations—not for virtually every condition, as is the case now.
The best way to avoid overuse of antibiotics is to keep your immune system in top condition to start with.
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