Scientists from Germany’s European Molecular Biology Laboratory have found that many drugs that target human cells rather than bacteria can cause changes in microbiome composition as well.

In fact, the scientists found that more than 25 percent of the 923 non-antibiotic drugs studied decreased the growth of one or more species of human gut bacteria. Some of the drugs that were identified as problematic include anti-diabetics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, atypical antipsychotics, and proton pump inhibitors.

Not surprisingly, 78 percent of the antibiotic drugs they looked at also inhibited the numbers of at least one species. It is interesting to note that the non-antibiotics that affected gut microbiomes in their study tended to be those that had more antibiotic-like side effects, like gastrointestinal issues.

The study’s senior author, Professor Peer Bork, said the findings were unexpected. He commented: “The number of unrelated drugs that hit gut microbes as collateral damage was surprising. Especially since we show that the actual number is likely to be even higher.”

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