Antibiotics Might Be Killing Your Brain Cells


Antibiotics which are strong enough to kill your gut’s bacteria can also stop the growth of new brain cells, according to a new study.

When antibiotics are strong enough to kill gut bacteria, they can also stop the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, a section of the brain associated with memory, the study found when researching the effects of antibiotics on mice. It seems to come down to a specific type of white blood cell that communicates between the brain, the immune system, and the gut.

“We found prolonged antibiotic treatment might impact brain function,” says senior author Susanne Asu Wolf of the Max-Delbrueck-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany. “But probiotics and exercise can balance brain plasticity and should be considered as a real treatment option.”


The study gave the mice enough antibiotics to kill their internal gut bacteria. The mice, compared with mice who didn’t have their gut bacteria altered by lower dose antibiotics, performed worse at memory tests and showed a loss in brain cells. The even more compelling part of the study is that those mice who were given probiotics showed an increase of memory, which directly supports the findings of this study.

“It was surprising that the normal fecal transplant recovered the broad gut bacteria, but did not recover neurogenesis,” says Wolf. “This might be a hint towards direct effects of antibiotics on neurogenesis without using the detour through the gut. To decipher this we might treat germ free mice without gut flora with antibiotics and see what is different.”

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