Antibiotics and Your Future Flu Fight: What You Need to Know Now

As summer comes to an end and flu season approaches, it’s important to remember the role that gut bacteria plays in keeping us healthy and preventing illnesses like the flu. New research published in Cell Reports found that taking antibiotics, which can eradicate healthy gut bacteria, damages your body’s first line of defense against the flu. Dr. Andreas Wack, who led the research at the Francis Crick Institute, explains, “We found that antibiotics can wipe out early flu resistance, adding further evidence that they should not be taken or prescribed lightly. Inappropriate use not only promotes antibiotic resistance and kills helpful gut bacteria, but may also leave us more vulnerable to viruses.”

In the study, when mice with healthy gut bacteria were infected with the flu, around 80% of them survived, compared to only a third who were given antibiotics before being infected. The reason for this is that bacteria in your gut send signals that regulate your immune response, which are crucial to early defense. The most important signals are called type I interferon signaling, and they can turn on an antiviral gene that disrupts influenza virus replication.

Typically, this gene has been studied in relation to immune cells in your blood, but this study found that the same signals also activate antiviral genes in your lung lining, preventing the flu virus from establishing itself in your body. Since the cell linings of your lungs are the only place where the virus can multiply, they are a key battleground in your body’s fight against the flu, especially in the early stages of infection.

The researchers also found that when healthy bacteria were reintroduced to the gut of mice through fecal transplants, interferon signaling was restored, and resistance to the flu returned. In the words of Dr. Wack, “Taken together, our findings show that gut bacteria help to keep non-immune cells elsewhere in the body prepared for attack. They are better protected from flu because antiviral genes are already switched on when the virus arrives. So when the virus infects a prepared organism, it has almost lost before the battle starts.”

To ensure you’re prepared to fight off the flu this season, it’s crucial to keep your gut healthy. This means avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use and taking probiotics to boost your gut health. Flu season is coming, and it’s time to get ready through the power of probiotics.

Remember, antibiotics can weaken flu defenses in the lung, so it’s essential to use them with care and consideration. The balance of bacteria in the gut can be crucial for when flu season arrives, so taking probiotics to boost your gut health is a wise move that could make all the difference. Don’t let the changing season make you vulnerable to illness. Arm yourself with knowledge and the right preparation, and maintain a healthy gut and a robust immune system for the coming flu season.