Antibiotics have long been thought of as silver bullets against infection. There is no doubt that such drugs save many lives each year. But there is also a growing recognition that overuse may have unintended consequences. A new study from Canada suggests that people who take substantial numbers of antibiotics may be at increased risk for inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s.
The investigators analyzed data from one of the largest databases of people with inflammatory bowel disease in North America. Comparing cases to people without these serious conditions revealed that people taking multiple antibiotics were 50 percent more likely to develop Crohn’s disease in a five-year period than those who took none. Scientists believe that changing the normal balance of gut flora might make a person more susceptible to inflammatory bowel disease.