Common Antidepressants Linked to Antibiotic Resistance

Researchers at the University of Queensland have discovered that a range of commonly prescribed antidepressants can enhance the resistance of bacteria to antibiotic medications. Led by Professor Jianhua Guo from UQ’s Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology, the study specifically examined the impact of prescription drugs used in the treatment of depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and other psychological conditions. The findings shed light on the potential contribution of these medications to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

With over 42 million antidepressant prescriptions dispensed in Australia in 2021, Professor Guo’s team investigated the exposure of bacteria to five frequently prescribed drugs: sertraline (Zoloft), escitalopram (Lexapro), bupropion (Wellbutrin), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and agomelatine (Valdoxan). While the excessive use of antibiotics is widely recognized as the primary driver of bacterial resistance, the researchers sought to explore whether other commonly used medications also played a role.

The study revealed that sertraline, duloxetine, and fluoxetine had the most substantial impact on bacterial resistance to antibiotics among the drugs tested. Even at very low doses, these three antidepressants were shown to significantly increase antibiotic resistance. Importantly, the study also indicated that the antibiotic resistance observed was dependent on the type of antidepressant used, potentially due to the oxidative stress exerted on bacteria by these medications.

Further research is needed to evaluate the potential effects of antidepressant use on individuals’ microbiomes, as well as to assess the associated risks of gastrointestinal disturbances or diseases. It is estimated that each year, approximately 1.27 million people die from infections that do not respond to medication, and this figure is projected to reach 10 million by 2050 if global action is not taken.

The recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland has unveiled a concerning link between commonly prescribed antidepressants and increased bacterial resistance to antibiotics. While the study emphasizes the crucial role of antibiotic overuse in driving resistance, it highlights the need for broader investigation into the impact of other widely used medications. To combat the alarming rise of antibiotic resistance, further studies are warranted to understand the potential effects on individuals’ microbiomes and associated risks, thus enabling the development of effective strategies to address this global health challenge.