Researchers have discovered more unintended consequences for antibiotics, this time for our earliest endosymbionts, the mitochondria.
Commonly-used antibiotics in the tetracycline class have been shown to impair cellular respiration and mitochondrial function in eukaryotic cells, from plants to mice to fruit flies, and in human cell cultures. Tetracyclines have been known to impair mitochondrial translation for decades, but the recent work shows that the effect is powerful and pervasive. From The Scientist: “researchers have now shown that even low concentrations of tetracyclines can inhibit mitochondrial function and lead to changes in both mitochondrial and nuclear protein expression. ”
From the paper by Moullan et al.:
“… the complete microbiome is estimated to be ten times larger than the number of cells in a human body (1014 bacteria versus 1013 cells), possibly explaining why early life exposure to antibiotics severely impacts metabolic traits through disruption of microbial homeostasis…One should keep in mind, however, that tetracyclines and some other antibiotic classes also inhibit the mitochondria—to be considered as bacteria within our cells—the population of which approximately exceeds the number of bacterial cells by a further order of magnitude (1015 mitochondria), thus providing a strong platform for adverse effects.”
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