A commonly prescribed antibiotic used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections could be associated with a short-term increase in the risk of cardiovascular death, a new study has found.
The study looked at almost eight million records of antibiotic encounters and prescriptions in the US between 1998 and 2014 and calculated the risk of cardiovascular death within 10 days of receiving azithromycin compared to amoxicillin, another antibiotic that is not associated with heart issues.
The researchers found that, compared with amoxicillin, azithromycin was associated with a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular death within five days of exposure. The researchers said doctors should be aware of these short-term risks to heart health when prescribing this antibiotic.
Azithromycin is used to treat a number of bacterial infections including lower respiratory tract infections, acute bacterial bronchitis, Haemophilus influenzae (most often causes ear, eye or sinus infections) and Moraxella catarrhalis (can cause infections of the respiratory system, middle ear, eye, central nervous system and joints).
This isn’t the first study to suggest certain antibiotics could increase your chances of heart disease. One study published in the European Heart Journal in April 2019 found women who take antibiotics over a long period of time are at an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Professor Lu Qi, who led the research, said that a possible reason why antibiotic use is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease is that antibiotics alter the balance of the micro-environment in the gut, destroying “good” probiotic bacteria and increasing the prevalence of viruses and bacteria that can cause disease.
“Antibiotic use is the most critical factor in altering the balance of microorganisms in the gut,” he said. “Previous studies have shown a link between alterations in the microbiotic environment of the gut and inflammation and narrowing of the blood vessels, stroke and heart disease.”
Heart disease, which is an umbrella term given to conditions that impact the heart — including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure and stroke is the leading cause of death in Australia. According to The Heart Foundation, one Australian has a heart attack every 10 minutes, and heart disease claims the life of one Australian every 28 minutes.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.