AUSTIN (KXAN) – New research suggests taking antibiotics during flu season could make your flu shot less effective, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The research was conducted by giving healthy adults the flu shot and then giving half of the participants broad spectrum antibiotics. Most of the adults who took the antibiotics showed a decreased resistance to the flu.
Antibiotics vs. Vaccines
Vaccines prevent infections by exposing your body to dead virus cells that are grown inside of eggs. Your immune system learns how to fight these cells, so if a living virus does invade, your body already knows what to do. The more vaccines you get over the years, the more viruses your body will remember how to fight. This is called an immune memory. It’s why someone who caught chicken pox as a child is less likely to get it as an adult.
Antibiotics kill bacterial infections but have no impact on viruses.
But a virus can lead to a bacterial infection which then must be treated with antibiotics. Broad spectrum antibiotics, like those used in the research, kill several types of bacteria at once, some of which are healthy bacteria living in your digestive track.
Researchers found that the antibiotic recipients entered into a “pro-inflammatory state,” similar to what happens when people 65 and up get a flu shot. Without the healthy bacteria in their guts, the bodies of the recipients couldn’t reduce the inflammation.
Doctors say improving your body’s immune memory will help fight an infection if your gut microbes are in short supply. The best way to do this is by getting your annual flu shot.