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In Some Cases, Even Bad Bacteria May Be Good

Overuse of antibiotics has led to the creation of drug-resistant bacteria ā€” so-called superbugs, like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. But now some researchers are exploring an equally unsettling possibility: Antibiotic abuse may also be contributing to the increasing incidence of obesity, as well as allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and gastroesophageal reflux.

Among those sounding the alarm is Dr. Martin Blaser, a professor of microbiology at New York University Langone Medical Center. In a commentary published in August in the journal Nature, he asserted that antibiotics are permanently altering microbial flora of the human body, also known as the microbiome or microbiota, with serious health consequences.

The human gut in particular is home to billions of bacteria, but little is known about this hidden ecosystem. Take Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium associated with an increased risk of ulcers and gastric cancer. Many doctors are quick to prescribe antibiotics to kill it even when the patient has no symptoms.
 
 

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