While antibiotics are commonly used to treat bacterial infections, long-term use has long been known to cause many side effects. A recent study by South Korean researchers indicates that those side effects may include dementia.
A recent study by Dr. Park Sang-min’s team, at Seoul National University Hospital’s Department of Family Medicine, tracked the incidence of dementia in over 300,000 South Korean adults over age 40, based on the number of days they were prescribed antibiotics. The study period was from 2002 to 2005.
The study was published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, a science and technology journal, on Sept. 26.
Dementia is a syndrome characterized by a decline in memory, thinking, behavior, and ability to perform daily activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for an estimated 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases. Although dementia primarily occurs in the elderly, the number of younger adults diagnosed with early-onset dementia is increasing in young adults.
According to the team, after taking into account variables such as age, gender, smoking, drinking, and common diseases, the greater the number of days of antibiotics prescribed, the higher the risk of dementia. Study participants who took antibiotics for more than 91 days had a 44 percent increased risk of dementia compared with those who had not been prescribed antibiotics. Among antibiotic users, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increased by 46 percent.
Both doctors and patients may be to blame for the misuse of antibiotics, says Dr. Heeseong Lee of Busan Hangun Hospital in Busan, South Korea.
“But it’s important that both doctors and patients are fully aware of the dangers of antibiotic misuse and work together to actively reduce antibiotic dependence,” Lee told The Epoch Times.
This is not the first study to link long-term antibiotic use to an increased risk of dementia.
A study published on March 23 in the international journal PLOS ONE makes the same point.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School tested 14,542 women on cognitive abilities such as attention, psychomotor speed (how quickly an individual recognizes and responds to changes in his or her environment), learning ability, and working memory.
Approximately seven years after mid-life antibiotic use (mid-life being defined as roughly 50 to 54 years of age), women with longer exposure to antibiotics showed a decline in cognitive function compared with non-users. The decline associated with prolonged antibiotic use was roughly equal to that associated with three to four years of aging.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization, there are around 55 million dementia patients worldwide. The number is expected to reach 139 million by 2050. Many factors contribute to dementia, including physical inactivity, heavy alcohol consumption, cardiovascular disease, smoking, unhealthy diet, and diabetes. With ten million new cases a year, the medical community is increasingly concerned with understanding the risk factors for dementia.
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