Antibiotic treatment increases the risk of death

Influenza should not be treated with antibiotics

For years, the effects of excessive use of antibiotics have been prevented. Now, a recent study shows that taking antibiotics for the flu is fatal even for mild illness.

The study by the Francis Crick Institute in London found that the use of antibiotics to treat influenza increases the risk of death from this disease. The results of the study have now been published in the English journal "Cell Reports".

The flu should never be treated with antibiotics. (Image: Sonja Birkelbach /

Probability of a deadly flu tripled

Bacteria in the intestine help the immune system respond to the first signs of viruses that invade the lungs and suppress the infection, say the researchers. Tests conducted on mice infected with influenza revealed that the risk of dying of influenza was three times greater after antibiotic treatment than in untreated mice. This is further evidence that antibiotics should not be taken or prescribed lightly, the authors point out.

Dangers of antibiotic resistance

Health systems around the world are facing the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, which could kill even simple injuries and illnesses. Unfortunately, antibiotics are often used inappropriately, as in viral infections where antibiotics are ineffective, or they are used for fattening livestock. This leads to incurable infections such as super-gonorrhea, which do not respond to any form of antibiotic.

The role of intestinal bacteria in influenza

Intestinal bacteria ensure that antiviral genes remain active in the lung lining and can be the first line of defense in case of influenza. The cells lining the lungs are used by influenza viruses to spread. Intestinal bacteria send a signal that prevents the rapid multiplication of the virus.

Antibiotics caused five times more virus in the lungs

One-third of the mice studied in the study survived if they received antibiotics before being infected, compared to 80% if the animals were not treated with antibiotics. Two days after influenza infection, mice receiving antibiotics had five times more virus in the lungs, the researchers reported.

Misuse of antibiotics should be avoided

It has been discovered that antibiotics can eliminate early resistance to the flu. This is further evidence that medications should not be taken or given lightly for the flu. Improper use not only promotes antibiotic resistance and kills beneficial intestinal bacteria, but also makes humans more susceptible to viruses. The results of the study are not only relevant to humans, as similar risks may occur for livestock treated with antibiotics. (As)


  • Konrad C. Bradley, Katja Finsterbusch, Daniel Schnepf, Serge Y. Fuchs and Peter Staeheli: Microbiota-driven interferon tonic signals in stromal lung cells protected against infection by the influenza virus, in Cell Reports (query: 03.07.2019), Cell Reports