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Old 03-25-2017, 06:32 PM
anomalous1 anomalous1 is offline
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Antibiotics & Immunity

Background.

I have only taken antibiotics for illnesses/conditions about 4 times in my entire life (turning 29). Once for a mild respiratory infection (10), another for extremely bad acne on my chest (took for a month/minocycline) (15), and as preventive after hernia surgery at age fifteen and appendectomy at age 17. I refuse to take any medications outside of my sertraline (zoloft) and the occasional Aleve. I RARELY get sick. Outside of cold viruses, which i deal with by eating spicy food to clear it up. Does this make my immune system better than those who constantly take antibiotics? Many people I know or have known used to take antibiotics even when they got the common cold! It made no sense to me.

Is my immune system stronger for letting my own body fight these things, as compared to someone who take antibiotics a couple times a year?

Are there any Reliablestudies on this? My Google-fu is weak today.

THANKS!
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Old 03-25-2017, 06:55 PM
jasg jasg is offline
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It has been any years since my immunology classes but I doubt that there is a yes/no answer to this question.

There are many antibiotic mechanisms and many types of immune responses.

You have done your bit to minimize antibiotic resistance in your microbiome.
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Old 03-25-2017, 07:00 PM
nearwildheaven nearwildheaven is offline
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The OP has been quite fortunate. Are you sure you never took them as a baby or a small child? I have heard infancy described as "a state of amoxicillin deficiency".

Excessive or inappropriate use of antibiotics leads to the organisms themselves becoming resistant, and most of this is from use in livestock, not people.

ETA: You're especially fortunate that the minocycline worked for you. I'm assuming you used this after topical remedies failed?

Last edited by nearwildheaven; 03-25-2017 at 07:01 PM.
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Old 03-25-2017, 07:12 PM
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RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
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No.

First, people who take antibiotics for viruses are not doing themselves any good, unless there is some factor you do not know about. Sometimes people who are prone to bacterial lung infections because of underlying conditions take antibiotics when they get viral respiratory infections. I knew someone with lupus who took antibiotics pretty frequently because of this.

However, some doctors do allow themselves to be coerced into prescribing antibiotics for just about anything-- and some people lie. Some doctors will prescribe antibiotics for something with the symptoms of a common cold if it has persisted for more than a week without appearing to abate. So some people lie about how long they have had something. In those cases, the people might as well be taking a sugar pill for as much good as the medication is doing the viral infection.

But are people telling you they have the common cold and have antibiotics, or are you making an assumption? Some bacterial infections, like middle ear infections do not present with the severe symptoms that say, a strep throat infection does, but they are nonetheless bacterial.

You are probably just lucky. Some people are prone to certain kinds of infections for various reasons. Before I had my tonsils and adenoids out, I was prone to all sorts of upper respiratory viral infections. Now, I rarely get them, but thanks to a deviated septum, I get lots of bacterial sinus infections, and they turn into bronchitis if I don't get an antibiotic ASAP.

On the other hand, I have never had acne. Different people have different vulnerabilities.

I think you have the cause and effect wrong. You probably just have natural resistance to bacterial infections, probably because of your head and neck anatomy-- most bacterial infections start there. You have never needed a lot of antibiotics, so you haven't had them. You didn't make yourself not need them.

FWIW, not taking antibiotics when you really need them is dangerous. Small cuts can turn into septicemia. Before antibiotics, people died from blisters becoming infected. Antibiotics keep strep throat from becoming scarlet fever-- it's the same infection, it's just very rare that anybody ever has it long enough for it to become scarlet fever anymore. It no longer causes blindness and heart disease.

I hope if you ever have a "cold" that lingers or is accompanied by a high fever, you see a doctor.

I also hope you get flu shots.
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Old 03-25-2017, 07:13 PM
anomalous1 anomalous1 is offline
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Magical baby i guess

No, wasn't ill as a baby as far as I was told, any more than normal, but had no infections. Yeah the minocycline worked, still have scars (look like pocks, chest hair covers it now lol) and I had tried all of the stuff, even that proactive stuff, willow bark oil, tree oils, stridex, you name it, nothing stopped it, but the minocycline did and it never came back, I get them on my back sometime as an adult (mild), but how Its due to how I work, and sweat. I really never take medications for stuff if I can help it, so when I do, it works immediately. I wonder if some scenario ever occurred, would I be better off than everyone else to pops antibiotics all the time.
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Old 03-25-2017, 07:22 PM
anomalous1 anomalous1 is offline
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Yep

I hope if you ever have a "cold" that lingers or is accompanied by a high fever, you see a doctor.

I also hope you get flu shots.[/QUOTE]



I do get flu shots, not because flu particularly bothers me, I just don't want to be That person that spreads it to others, and I always watch for fever and any extreme symptoms, I get checked out once a year. I'm not one of those anti-med/anti-vax people. I love the idea of herd immunity, it's productive for society as a whole. I just never seem to take meds if I can handle it on my own, and the people who do get the common cold and take antibiotics, it really is people i've known. I have explained to them it will do nothing unless there is some sort of secondary BACTERIAL infection caused by it, but people swear by it, and I am also sure it is a placebo effect of sorts. Do you mean my body is just naturally more immune to infection, rather than because I didn't use antibiotics to sort it all out and let my body "learn"?
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Old 03-25-2017, 07:43 PM
Isilder Isilder is offline
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I think the OP is right ... the infection you let your body fight off confers better immunity.

My thoughts are like this
1. If the infection is going to go on and on and get worse over a weak, your body isn't learning to fight it off fast enough
2. antibiotics work to halt the bacteria overnight, and kill it inside the day. The antibiotics weaken the bacteria, and then non-antibody immune system (eg macrophages) have no trouble wiping the bacteria out .. the reduced time of exposure results in no or weak immunity ? The antibody that wiped out the bacteria may be only working due to antibiotic.

The definition of antibiotic is that it is a poison to bacteria with essentially no side effect on the animal.. or at least it doesnt directly harm the animals cells...

The infants don't have the same immune system process, and they tend to get fever and get terribly sick from bacteria. The doctors are preventing death by fever .. by giving antibitoics when the fever is in the range that there will probably be a bad bacterian infection
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Old 03-25-2017, 08:32 PM
jjakucyk jjakucyk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isilder View Post
I think the OP is right ... the infection you let your body fight off confers better immunity.

My thoughts are like this
1. If the infection is going to go on and on and get worse over a weak, your body isn't learning to fight it off fast enough
2. antibiotics work to halt the bacteria overnight, and kill it inside the day. The antibiotics weaken the bacteria, and then non-antibody immune system (eg macrophages) have no trouble wiping the bacteria out .. the reduced time of exposure results in no or weak immunity ? The antibody that wiped out the bacteria may be only working due to antibiotic.
Perhaps, but does it always work that way? A couple years ago I started getting regular tonsillitis (it presented as strep, but always failed the tests) about every three months or so. Waiting it out never worked, and antibiotics like penicillin, amoxicillin, or clindamycin would knock it down well enough that I'd feel OK until the series ran out and then it would flare up again. Augmentin (Amoxicillin Clavulanate) would knock it down completely, but it would flare up again in a couple months. I ended up having to get my tonsils removed because I was getting tonsillitis 3-4 times a year. At age 34, that was no fun at all. Pathology confirmed a non-strep bacterial infection.

The tonsils are rather notorious for harboring infection though it's localized, not systemic. They seem to be a gland thats easy for the bacteria to hide out in and avoid treatment. Point being, despite the recurring infections for two to three years, and the resultant fevers, fatigue, and difficulty swallowing, my immune system never seemed to figure out what it needed to do to fight this bacteria, and there were several times I tried to wait it out when I was merely tired and sore, but not feverish. Perhaps the same mechanism that allows bacteria to grow in the tonsils also inhibits the ability of the immune system to properly fight it?
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Old 03-25-2017, 09:17 PM
igor frankensteen igor frankensteen is offline
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Hmm. No expertise, but everything I've read says that the problem with taking lots of antibiotics isn't that your immune system will weaken. The problem is that the "germs" will evolve more quickly in the population overall, and become immune to the antibiotics we have.

No matter how few antibiotics you've had in your life, if you catch a disease that is immune to all the antibiotics that are available, you are just as doomed as the person who took lots of antibiotics.
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Old 03-25-2017, 09:41 PM
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RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
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Fighting viruses confers immunity to viruses, but bacteria are vastly more complex organisms than viruses. Generally, your immune system can't "learn" to identify a bacterium the way it can a virus. This is why there are vaccines for many viruses, but very few bacteria, and the ones for bacteria tend to wear off after a comparatively short time, like, a few years, while the shortest lasting viral vaccines last about 10 years (flue vaccines last decades to the strain they confer immunity against, but there is a new strain every year).

Anyway, this is why you get viral infections once (some individuals are rare exceptions), but you can get things like strep again and again. After you have strep, you are immune to reinfection for a few weeks, or maybe a couple of months, but that's it.

Also, generally speaking, bacteria are lethal when they release toxins-- the toxins are their waste products. A few are dangerous because they cause high fevers or compromise breathing (one reason some are especially dangerous in infants, who have tiny airways, and can't sit up), but mainly it is the toxins. They overload your organs, and cause them to fail. E. coli bacteria kills by killing your liver and kidneys with its toxins. Strep toxins can cause neurological failure, which is how it causes blindness, and it can affect the autonomic nervous system. The rash that marks scarlet fever is an allergic reaction to the toxins.

This is why you want to get antibiotics early on, before there is a build-up of toxins. You have a few days, which is why there's plenty of time to make sure it's not a cold, but you don't have weeks. Also, people with liver or kidney problems may not have days-- they may not be able to wait and find out if something is viral or bacterial-- they need an antibiotic ASAP, just in case it's bacterial.

Remember, the people you know taking antibiotics for a viral infection had a doctor prescribe them. Like I said, there are a few doctors who may give in to a whiny patient, and some patients who lie about the duration of the symptoms, but on the whole, if someone with a viral infection is taking antibiotics, there's a reason. Maybe they don't want to tell you they take post-transplant immuno-suppressants, or have or COPD, and are at high risk for a secondary infection, or a secondary infection is very dangerous for them, but there is probably a reason, and it isn't the placebo response. If it were the placebo response, the doctor could prescribe prescription-only antihistamines, or something.
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Old 03-26-2017, 12:38 AM
Tim@T-Bonham.net Tim@T-Bonham.net is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anomalous1 View Post
I just never seem to take meds if I can handle it on my own, and the people who do get the common cold and take antibiotics, it really is people i've known. I have explained to them it will do nothing unless there is some sort of secondary BACTERIAL infection caused by it, but people swear by it, and I am also sure it is a placebo effect of sorts.
Uuh, speaking of placebo effects
Quote:
I RARELY get sick. Outside of cold viruses, which i deal with by eating spicy food to clear it up.
  #12  
Old 03-26-2017, 04:16 AM
Silver lining Silver lining is offline
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Originally Posted by anomalous1 View Post
Background.

I have only taken antibiotics for illnesses/conditions about 4 times in my entire life (turning 29). Once for a mild respiratory infection (10), another for extremely bad acne on my chest (took for a month/minocycline) (15), and as preventive after hernia surgery at age fifteen and appendectomy at age 17. I refuse to take any medications outside of my sertraline (zoloft) and the occasional Aleve. I RARELY get sick. Outside of cold viruses, which i deal with by eating spicy food to clear it up. Does this make my immune system better than those who constantly take antibiotics? Many people I know or have known used to take antibiotics even when they got the common cold! It made no sense to me.

Is my immune system stronger for letting my own body fight these things, as compared to someone who take antibiotics a couple times a year?

Are there any Reliablestudies on this? My Google-fu is weak today.

THANKS!

There are over 250 types of viruses that cause cold-like symptoms, a reason why they are hard to prevent.

In general, you are better off letting your body fight off the disease unless its a bad case of whatever.

An immune systems is somewhat like a muscle. You need to keep using to remain strong. If you offer short cuts its can get weaker.
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Old 03-26-2017, 06:40 PM
anomalous1 anomalous1 is offline
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Thanks for all the responses! great input here. for T-Bonham, actually spicy food does alleviate the symptoms, not placebo effect, it clears out my throat, and nasal passages and reduces sinus pressure. I can breathe and not be all clogged up.
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Old 03-26-2017, 08:08 PM
EdelweissPirate EdelweissPirate is offline
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T-Bonham was right to question your spicy food claim. You said you aid spicy food "to clear it up," which I and others read as "to clear up the infection," which certainly sounds like woo. Now you're saying you meant "to alleviate symptoms," which makes more sense. I can't tell whether you were sloppy In your initial post or you're hedging now, but either way, T-Bonham was right to point out that assertion.

I get a whiff of sanctimony from your post: because you don't often take antibiotics, you somehow think your immune system is extra-robust. I guess that's possible, but if it's true, why do you need us to tell you so?

I've never broken a bone, ever, despite being a lifelong participant in several sports in which broken bones are fairly common. But rather than assume I've got an amazingly buff set of bones, I go with a simpler explanation: thus far, I've been lucky.

Taking antibiotics does not weaken one's immune system, or at least I've never seen any credible evidence that they do. If anyone does have credible evidence to that effect, I'd be interested in seeing it.

Last edited by EdelweissPirate; 03-26-2017 at 08:09 PM. Reason: Clarity
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Old 03-27-2017, 06:21 PM
anomalous1 anomalous1 is offline
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Sanctimony? No. Just curious and was relating my experience. As to the spicy food bit, I should have put "alleviate" in the first post. I just assumed that everyone knew that is what I meant, since spicy food makes your nose run and food cannot kill a virus. Thanks!
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