Antibiotics act on bacteria that cause infections but, sometimes they adversely affect the helpful gut microbiome. They fail to work when the body becomes antibiotic-resistant due to the viruses changing their response to the medicine. A new study has shown antibiotic resistance depends on factors like a person's geographical location, demographics, diet and lifestyle.

A team led by Dr. Katariina Pärnänen, from the University of Turku in Finland, set out to study the extent of antibiotic resistance prompted by different demographics and lifestyles to facilitate targeted strategies to reduce the occurrence. The study was presented at this year's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Copenhagen, reported Medical Express.

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing global health threat. Figures show it was instrumental in five million deaths worldwide in 2019 and the direct cause of an estimated 1.27 million deaths the same year. Experts estimate antimicrobial resistance will overtake cancer as the leading cause of death by 2050.

Scientists ran a survey on 7,098 symptomless adults. They collected gut metagenome fecal samples from the participants to understand how various factors influence the abundance of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs).

The researchers then collected health and lifestyle data, including major diagnoses, blood measurements, habitual diet and prescription drug use, from the participants to understand if these factors also play a role in developing antibiotic resistance.

They used shotgun metagenomes, an untargeted genetic sequencing approach that examines all the bacteria present in the gut, to establish a link between the antibiotic resistance gene load, diversity and composition of participants and various factors such as geography, demography, lifestyle and health.

Unsurprisingly, antibiotic use was found to have links to higher ARG loads, but other drug classes, such as psycholeptic drugs (e.g., opioids and barbiturates), also contributed to a higher abundance of ARGs to some extent.

The study showed people who consumed raw vegetables and poultry frequently had a higher risk of ARG build-up.

"Our findings clearly show that geography, demographics, and diet play an underappreciated role in antibiotic resistance," said Dr. Pärnänen in the study, according to Science Blog. "This has important implications for the antibiotic resistance crisis as more and more people are living in densely populated areas and cities and are able to buy more expensive types of foods, such as meat, and fresh produce, and also medication. Reducing or preventing the spread of antimicrobial resistance will require action plans at national levels that go beyond regulating the misuse of antibiotic prescriptions."

Antibiotics like amoxicillin, pictured here, are known to disrupt the healthy bacteria in our gut. Photo Courtesy Pixabay, Public Domain