A Journey Through Pharmaceutical Induced Illness

The following post was written in 2013 and published on Collective-Evolution. It is still, six years later, my favorite post. It is my heart and soul. It lays bare how lost and devastated I felt after getting floxed by ciprofloxacin. It describes how I felt being knocked down, and how it felt to heal and get stronger.

This post resonated with many people when it was published. In just a couple days it was shared on Facebook more than 1,000 times. I was amazed and flattered that so many people cared about my journey enough to share my story. 

Because of Facebook’s rules, Collective-Evolution posts don’t have the reach that they did back in 2013. I’m re-posting here on Floxie Hope to revive this post. As I said, it’s my favorite. I hope that it resonates with, and helps, you.

*****

When I realized that Cipro was the cause of my body going completely hay-wire (I didn’t know immediately because my reaction was delayed), and I saw stories on the internet of people getting worse and worse indefinitely, and/or living with pain and disability caused by fluoroquinolones, I thought that I had accidentally killed myself. I thought of writing letters to my family and friends to say goodbye, to let them know that I was gone and that I was so, so, so sorry that I had taken those pills.

In some ways, even though I survived, obviously, I think that I should have written those letters (even though they would have scared the crap out of my loved ones and probably gotten me locked in a psych ward). Because I am different now. The old Lisa is gone. I certainly didn’t die in the physical sense, but who I was changed in an instant, with those 6 pills.

Before I got sick, my identity was formed by what I did, thought and felt. I was active and athletic. In the summer of 2010 I hiked the entire 500 mile Colorado Trail. I was a gym-rat. I’d get up at 5:30 so that I could hit the gym before work. I was trying out CrossFit gyms just weeks before I took Cipro. I took pride in being strong; in being healthy, active and fit. My appetites in all areas was larger than most. I loved food and I could pack it away (only keeping my weight in check by being as into exercise as I was into food). I liked to drink and I was good at it. I liked sex and, well, I dunno, I’ll tell you who to ask if you care. :p I had strong opinions on politics and religion and would express them willingly. I liked to travel and I was proud of my travels all over the world – I have seen and done some interesting stuff. I was a voracious reader as a kid but had slowed down a bit as an adult, but I still read The New Yorker regularly. I considered myself to be smart. I considered myself to be a good conversationalist.

All of that went away while I was sick. I could barely walk, I certainly couldn’t go to the gym, and CrossFit is a recipe for torn tendons for a Floxie. I was weak. I lost my energy. Strong is not something anyone would call me. I stopped eating and didn’t care about food in the least – it actually scared me a bit. Sex was approximately the last thing on my mind and I was scared of it too – it can lead to urinary tract infections and urinary tract infections can lead to antibiotics, and that chain reaction had gotten me into the rotten place where I was. My ability to handle alcohol was diminished. Even if I wanted to drink, and I didn’t, I couldn’t drink much and it wasn’t fun any more. I lost my reading comprehension. I lost my memory. I lost my capacity to do many mental tasks, so I couldn’t consider myself to be smart any more. I felt anxious in social situations and I couldn’t seem to find the words to communicate or connect with people, so I certainly wasn’t a good conversationalist.

All of the things that I thought made me who I was, were gone.

But I was still alive. I was still breathing. I wasn’t able to do the things that I thought made me me, but I was still a being, just now I was a being without any of the things that defined me.

So I fought to get those things that defined me back. I took supplement after supplement, hoping that the next one would be the cure that would bring me back. I scoured the internet, looking for the magic cure, whether it be in the form of a diet, a pill, a specialist or a method. Some of the things that I tried were helpful, some were harmful, most were neutral. None of them turned back the hands of time.

I started the spirituality sampler platter. I meditated. It helped immensely. I went to a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class. It helped me as well. I went to Buddhism classes and retreats. I read Marianne Williamson’s, “A Return to Love” and went to classes on A Course in Miracles (ACIM). I went to Hippy Dance Class / Rhythm Sanctuary / Hippy Church and felt the healing power of Hippies saying “OM” together and dancing to trance music. I learned about Chakras. I went to a Crystal Bowl concert.

Meditating, Buddhism classes and a course in Miracles all helped me to get to a point where mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I came to terms with my inability to turn back the hands of time. I started to accept what life had brought me. I started to feel okay about the fact that, even though I couldn’t run, I could still walk. Even though my memory and reading comprehension were shot (those scared me so much), I could still work (sort of). Even though I couldn’t do the things that I thought made me me, I could still breathe, love, feel and see beauty and depth in the moment, etc. With meditation, Buddhism and ACIM, I was able to gain patience, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, etc., mainly for myself, but for others as well.

Eventually I got to a place where I started to like who I was post-flox. Even though I wasn’t as physically strong as I used to be, I found out that I was a fighter. I learned that I’m a survivor. Cipro messed with my ability to communicate verbally, but I could still communicate through writing, and I became a writer. I found something that I feel passionate about, something to scream about, and I stopped hating that my world-view had changed and started to appreciate, in a strange way, that I now had a cause to fight for.

Certainly, this mental, emotional and spiritual healing was possible because I was healing physically. I had the benefit of my body cooperating with me and ceasing the downward spiral that it was intent on for a while. But it’s all interconnected. Our emotional, mental and spiritual health is related to our physical health, and vice versa.

Getting better physically was a long, slow process. Most of my issues were central, peripheral and autonomic nervous system issues. Nerves take a while to heal. They just do. Tendons aren’t fast healers either. But the jumps in my identity, the shifts in my psyche, were sudden. Just the other day, my appetite came back. I started to want food again. Dating has more appeal than it used to (I dated through being floxed, it just felt different). As I’ve been writing, I’ve started to feel smart again. I started to feel like ME again – like the old Lisa. Perhaps these changes (changes back) are just part of healing, part of my brain rewiring itself back to how it was for 32 years, but I prefer to think of it in more spiritual terms. As soon as I accepted and appreciated my new self, my old self returned. Life is interesting, strange and funny like that sometimes.

Even though some, maybe most of my old self traits are back, I now realize that all of those things, what I do, what I think and even what I feel, are transient. I am not the same person as I was before I got sick. But you know what? That’s okay. Because I wasn’t the same person as I was just before I got sick 2 years prior to that. We are all constantly evolving and changing. Nothing is permanent, except, perhaps the soul, love, God, whatever you want to call that constant that is in each of us. Sudden, painful changes that are thrust upon us from the outside are lousy ways to change, and they invite some resistance, but I truly did find peace, and even healing, in acceptance of the changes that came and letting go of resistance and fear.

I suppose that anyone who goes through a life-changing or traumatic event goes through what I went through when I got knocked down by Cipro. When you lose your health, your job, a loved one, etc., whenever something changes for the worse in a way that can’t be reversed, there is the tendency to want to claw back to where you were before the trauma happened, because where you were was good and where you are now is bad. It’s natural. But it never works. It’s impossible to turn back time. You can only move on. Part of moving on is acceptance of where you’re at. Acceptance does not mean that what happened is okay in any way shape or form, it doesn’t mean that you’re complacent and it doesn’t mean that you’re going to stay where you are, it just means that you let go of the notion that you can go backward. Moving forward, from where you’re at, can be an amazing, beautiful thing. It in no way means that you stay sick, or stay where you’re at in life. It’s just as impossible to stay where you’re at as it is to move backward, but in order to move on, to go forward, I have found that acceptance of the impossibility of going back, is crucial.

So, I guess that my closing message to anyone who is struggling with the loss of their former self, is to breathe. Cry and grieve for the parts of yourself that have been brutally taken away from you. Then, once you are done with the grief, know that you can’t go backward, accept that you can’t turn back time, and find some ways to move on, to find peace, happiness and healing. It worked for me. I will hope and pray that it will work for you.

******

Floxed Friday – The Rise of Floxie Education

Every Friday Michelle Polacinski, a Floxie as well as the Director and Producer of ‘Floxed,’ sends out a newsletter to those who have subscribed to the ‘Floxed’ newsletter. The Floxed Friday updates are always interesting and thoughtful, and Michelle has given me permission to share them here. 
 
If you would like to receive the Floxed Friday updates directly from Michelle, please subscribe to the Floxed Documentary email list. You can subscribe through THIS LINK. Subscribing also helps Michelle to gain funding for the Floxed Documentary, and she doesn’t send out spam. 
 
The following was written by Michelle: 

We’re in Los Angeles, home of the entertainment industry, the most prevalent researcher on Fluoroquinolone Toxicity, nostalgia, and the doctor that floxed me. Ahhh it’s good to be home… and it’s weird to be home.

We’re shooting two very important interview subjects out here and we are very excited about what’s to come. During every interview, we learn something new that we didn’t know before. Did you know that on certain tests that doctors have to take in med school, “Cipro” is the answer to “What do you prescribe for a UTI?”

That was the case back then, but it’s not the case now.

Before diving headfirst into the entertainment industry, I was on track for medical school. I attended a pre-med summer camp for interested high school students in Boston, where I wore pant suits and attended conferences with a coffee in my hand as if I were a full-blown adult.

In college, I took classes on Animal Behavior and Microbiology, auditing Immunology by accident, and making friends along the way.

A lot of these friends, but not all, ended up making it to medical school. I was eternally grateful when they flooded me with facebook messages, skype calls, emails, and texts asking me the details about what happened to me. They were both alarmed and very curious.

Early into med school, they didn’t know much about what to expect, but a few years later, those same people reached out to me again, “just to let me know” that they had just taken an entire lesson on Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Syndrome and that they were told only to prescribe fluoroquinolones in near-death situations.

Naturally, my former academic peers shared my floxed story with their classmates and later, I had messages from other friends in nursing school who learned about FQT/FQAD.

At Chowder Fest this year, a woman made a sly remark about my “intelligence” when I propped the door to the bathroom open with a garbage can and we ended up talking about Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Syndrome just for a girl who was peeing to raise her arm over the stall and scream, “Is that CIPRO?” She learned about it in a Biology class studying for her Bachelor’s Degree.

I know it’s hard to have hope if you’ve been floxed, particularly if you’ve shown no signs of improvement, but there is hope in education. There’s hope in the future.

We hope that once finished, we can use this documentary as an educational resource for doctors and other medical professionals alike. Just talking about it seems to spark awareness and hopefully, change.

Have a great weekend!

Best,
Michelle Polacinski
Floxie, Director, and Producer of ‘Floxed’

*****

Dr. Bennett identifies what the government should be doing — but isn’t — to guard against unsafe prescription drugs

Dr. Charles Bennett has been an advocate for addressing fluoroquinolone safety concerns for many years. He has has filed multiple petitions with the FDA to get them to change the warning labels for fluoroquinolones–one of the petitions is to get the FDA to add Psychiatric Adverse Events to the Levaquin/levofloxacin warning label, another is to have the FDA add “Possible Mitochondrial Toxicity” to the Levaquin Label, another requesting a black box warning to specifically identify psychiatric adverse events, including suicide and suicide-related adverse events, and likely others. These petitions have led to warning label changes, and have been featured in many of the news stories about fluoroquinolones. Dr. Bennett has also testified before the FDA about fluoroquinolone adverse reactions, and has helped many “floxies” to gain information and support. He is a wonderful advocate, and his advocacy work has increased the credibility of other advocates for fluoroquinolone toxicity awareness. He has changed how many people think of fluoroquinolones, and he has changed how fluoroquinolones are prescribed. He is making a difference.

Dr. Bennett recently wrote a wonderful editorial that was published in the LA Times entitled, “What the government should be doing — but isn’t — to guard against unsafe prescription drugs.” I highly recommend that you read and share it. He has some great ideas and insights, some of which I’m going to highlight in this post (all italicized and indented sections of this post are quotes from the editorial).

He, and his co-authors, state:

The failings are at every point in the system, starting with drug approvals. But we believe there is a particularly serious problem with the mechanisms for identifying, monitoring and disseminating information about issues with a drug after its release.

Once a drug is approved for market, the FDA relies on an informal and ineffective system of case reports and citizens’ petitions to alert it to problems and adverse events. In the past, case reports, submitted to medical journals by physicians, served as an important mechanism for detailing drug toxicity. But today, because of changes to editorial guidelines, peer-reviewed journals rarely accept such reports for publication.

Indeed. Take it from a doctor who specializes in studying adverse drug reactions that the current system of tracking and addressing concerns about adverse drug reactions is failing and ineffective. How many of the thousands (perhaps millions) of adverse reactions to fluoroquinolones have been reported to the FDA through either the adverse event reporting system, a case report, or a citizen’s petition? Unfortunately, not many. It should be noted that, “Many studies have documented that only 10%-15% of serious adverse reactions are reported” to the FDA. Though I encourage every “floxie” to report his or her adverse reaction to the FDA, a voluntary reporting system that is confusing and difficult to navigate, is not a particularly effective way of tracking the actual incidence of adverse drug reactions.

Dr. Bennett also notes that Citizen’s Petitions (many of which he has filed) are not an effective tool for tracking and evaluating post-market adverse drug reactions:

Citizens’ petitions, in which any citizen can petition the FDA to report adverse drug effects, are intended to be another check. But the petition process is cumbersome, and they are rarely granted. Of the 1,915 Citizens Petitions filed in the 12-year period between 2001 and 2013, a total of 13 were granted. Many go unanswered altogether.

The citizen’s petitions filed by Dr. Bennett, Public Citizen, and others, have been helpful advocacy tools, but, as Dr. Bennett and his co-authors point out, they have not been adequate.

Rather than continuing with the ineffective system of depending on patient and doctor reports of adverse reactions, citizen’s petitions, and case-reports to monitor and track adverse drug reactions, Dr. Bennett suggests that a new system for tracking and monitoring drugs with black-box warnings be implemented.

We propose a “black box” database or “registry,” publicly available and simple to use, that would contain extensive information about where, by whom and for what purpose black box drugs are prescribed, as well as where and in what quantities such drugs are being distributed and sold. Information about adverse side effects, culled from the myriad of government databases that now collect them, would also be consolidated in an open form and format.

In addition to the benefits of a black box database/registry noted above, a black box database/registry also has the potential to decrease usage of drugs that have black box warnings:

Is there a chance that the existence of a black box registry would decrease the use of those drugs? Possibly, and that would be a good thing. Too often black box warnings are seen as meaningless, and they are counteracted with marketing campaigns that promote off-label use. If adding more transparency, thought and effort to the prescription and sale of dangerous drugs winds up decreasing their use, that will likely be a beneficial side effect.

It would be WONDERFUL if there were a system in-place that cut down on unnecessary fluoroquinolone prescriptions. It would be WONDERFUL if there were a system in-place that adequately communicated the real risks of fluoroquinolones. I think that Dr. Bennett’s idea of creating a black box registry is an excellent way to do both those things, and it’s absolutely worth a try. The system that we currently have for tracking and addressing adverse drug reactions is woefully inadequate. Change is good – especially if it is in the direction of making people safer.

Thank you Dr. Bennett and co-authors for writing “What the government should be doing — but isn’t — to guard against unsafe prescription drugs.” Your insights and advocacy are greatly appreciated!

*****

Prominent Activist Notes Possible Connections Between Fluoroquinolones and ME/CFS

I’m a big fan of Jennifer Brea–an activist and advocate for those with ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS), and the filmmaker behind the wonderful documentary Unrest. She is also heavily involved with the ME Action Network, “A global, grassroots network for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” and a blogger on Medium. She is powerful, thoughtful, interesting, insightful, an amazing leader, and she has helped thousands (maybe millions) of people with ME to live with, and maintain hope through, a horrible and debilitating disease. She has brought understanding of the horror of ME to people in a way that is empathetic and thought provoking. She is a wonderful advocate for her community.

AND, I’m excited to tell the “floxed” community…

Fluoroquinolones are on her radar as a possible cause of connective tissue disorders that may lead to ME.

In her July 10, 2019 post, “Onset: Part III (Connections),” she notes that antibiotics are a potential cause of collagen and connective tissue disorders:

Antibiotics: doxycycline, which anecdotally some patients have benefited from, inhibits MMPs. Fluroquinolone antiobiotics, which can produce an ME/CFS-like illness, increases MMPs and in December 2018, the FDA issued a warning against its use in patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Marfan Syndrome.”

Indeed, fluoroquinolones increase production of MMPs–a category of enzymes that are capable of degrading all kinds of extracellular matrix proteins including, but not limited to, the structural proteins of the aortic wall.

The article, “Ciprofloxacin enhances the stimulation of matrix metalloproteinase 3 expression by interleukin‐1β in human tendon‐derived cells” notes the following:

In this study, we have shown that the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, which induces tendon pain in some patients (1) and tendon pathology in rodents (3, 4), can increase MMP expression in human tendon‐derived fibroblasts. Specifically, ciprofloxacin potentiated IL‐1β–stimulated expression of MMP‐3 at both the mRNA and protein level.

Tendon pain and degeneration have been associated with an increase in the normal turnover of matrix proteins (9, 10, 12). MMP‐3 has a broad substrate specificity; it is able to degrade matrix components including type III collagen and the proteoglycans aggrecan and versican, and is capable of activating a variety of other MMPs and pro–tumor necrosis factor (11). However, its role in tendon physiology and pathology has not been clearly defined.

Our results raise the possibility that a combination of fluoroquinolone and (fluoroquinolone‐induced) inflammatory mediators might result in the inappropriate or unbalanced expression of MMPs.

Changes in expression of matrix components such as collagen and proteoglycans have also been reported in response to various fluoroquinolones.

The increase in MMP expression may not be the only way that fluoroquinolones damage and destroy connective tissues, but it’s almost certainly one way.

More information about the increase of MMP expression caused by fluoroquinolone antibiotics can be found in the post, “Fluoroquinolones Increase Expression of MMPs” as well as these links:

In a couple posts on this site, I have noted that ME/CFS caused by connective tissue disorders may be proceeded (even caused by) fluoroquinolone exposure. You can read about these theories in the posts Are Fluoroquinolones Causing Connective Tissue Disorders that are Leading to ME/CFS? and Do Fluoroquinolones Cause Cerebrospinal Fluid Leaks?

In Jen Brea’s post she note that there are many causes of collagen and connective tissue disorders, including viral infections, bacterial infections, mold, pregnancy, surgery, car accident, concussion, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and other connective tissue disorders, and sex hormones.

It is likely that many people who suffer from ME/CFS, as well as many “floxies,” have been exposed to several of these triggers. Personally, I was exposed to both fluoroquinolone antibiotics and changes in sex hormones (my period) when the flox bomb went off in me. I don’t think I had an actual infection, but most people also have a concurrent bacterial or viral infection when they take fluoroquinolones. I have also surmised in the past that perhaps floxies (as well as people with ME/CFS) have a yet-to-be-discovered form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. I also think that there are genetic predispositions to both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS, and that the RCCX theory by Dr. Sharon Meglathery is a good place to start when looking at genetic predispositions for all sorts of mysterious illnesses. On the site https://www.rccxandillness.com/ Dr. Meglathery states:

“I believe that the RCCX Theory solves some of medicine and psychiatry’s greatest mysteries. The RCCX Theory explains the co-inheritance of a wide range of overlapping chronic medical conditions in individuals and families (EDS/hypermobility, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatiguing illness, psychiatric conditions, autism, etc.). It explains the underlying pathophysiology of chronic fatiguing illnesses with so many overlapping features (EDS-HT, CFS, Chronic Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, toxic mold, Epstein Barr Infection, MCAS, POTS, etc.). And finally, it reveals the gene which I believe confers a predisposition toward brilliance, gender fluidity, autistic features, and stress vulnerability, as well as the entire spectrum of psychiatric conditions (other than schizophrenia which can be co-inherited).”

Though there is significant overlap between fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS they are not the same, and there are many people suffering from ME/CFS who had other triggers set off their illness. With that said, the evidence that ME/CFS is a connective tissue disorder is mounting, and if a debilitating disease like ME/CFS is caused by disordered connective tissues, perhaps drugs that are known to cause connective tissue disorders (fluoroquinolones) shouldn’t be prescribed by the millions each year.

I appreciate that a leader like Jennifer Brea has the fluoroquinolone connection on her radar, and I hope that those in the ME/CFS community that are floxies as well are able to gain insight and support from both our communities.

I also suggest that everyone watch her wonderful film, Unrest. As a recent floxie hope commenter said, “It’s a good window of what it’s like to live with a chronic illness and I think a great example of what it’s like to have a supportive partner (her husband Omar).” Here’s the trailer:

At the risk of sounding too much like a fan-girl, I’m pretty stoked that fluoroquinolone toxicity is on Jen Brea’s radar, because I think she’s amazing. Read and watch her work, and I think you’ll agree. Much of it will likely resonate with many “floxies” as well.

*****

 

Why All Recovered Floxies Are Only 99% Better

Every Friday Michelle Polacinski, a Floxie as well as the Director and Producer of ‘Floxed,’ sends out a newsletter to those who have subscribed to the ‘Floxed’ newsletter. The Floxed Friday updates are always interesting and thoughtful, and Michelle has given me permission to share them here. 
 
If you would like to receive the Floxed Friday updates directly from Michelle, please subscribe to the Floxed Documentary email list. You can subscribe through THIS LINK. Subscribing also helps Michelle to gain funding for the Floxed Documentary, and she doesn’t send out spam. 
 
The following was written by Michelle: 

It’s hard to bounce back from Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Syndrome. In fact, many people never do. For those who do, you may ask, How do you feel? Are you back to normal? Are you at 100%?

I don’t know a single floxie comfortable with saying they are 100% better. I never have. I also don’t think it’s possible to be “back to normal” or to who you were previously when something like this happens to you.

It’s traumatic. It changes your perspectives on life, on the medical system, on what the heck an antibiotic is, on what you put in your body, and the significance of everyday things. How can you ever be back to who you were, especially when you come back from a horrifying disability?

And no, rarely anyone can say they are 100% better because flare ups happen. Some symptoms never go away. Even if you feel good for years, one day you wake up with the worst chest pain in your life and you wonder, “Is this an aortic aneurysm?”

EBV and Nerve Damage:

I felt this way more recently with the onset of Epstein-Barr virus, which affects approximately 90% of the population, commonly known as mononucleosis or “mono,” and going back to a lot of the same supplements I took every day for years when I was at my worst.

I’ve been dealing with numbness in my hands again and it’s horribly frustrating. This came up after taking cacao, a neurostimulant, and it made me wonder, Are my hands getting better or worse?

A thing we floxies say is that “healing comes in waves.” Really. You’ll feel a symptom and it may come and go over the matter of a few days or weeks or months before you start to feel it get better. Maybe my long-time nerve damage in my hands is going through a healing process again thanks to the cacao or maybe it’s getting worse. I’ll never know and there is probably no PhD, no expert on Planet Earth, who has the answer to that question, so I just have to wait it out like everything else.

So for now, my pee is bright yellow all thanks to high levels of b-vitamins in my system, you know, to stimulate nerve healing, mitochondria healing, and all that stuff. Amy Moser mentioned in our interview that it takes about a month for one inch of nerve to heal and that her nerves are forever damaged after 8 years, so she believes.

Who knows?

What’s next for the Floxed Team:

We have awesome news to share.
We’re finally all meeting in Los Angeles to shoot some of our bigger interviews (shh) with some big researchers and medical professionals in the field next month.

I’m very excited since LA was my home when I was floxed and I can’t wait to meet some of these people I’ve only spoken to online or over the phone. I’ll be meeting even more friends/floxie family while we’re out there and this is my first time back home since getting floxed.

We’re also applying to more grants and we feel very positive about them, especially one that particularly focuses on female filmmakers making films about disability awareness (heck yeah we are).

***Wish us luck and please cross all your fingers and toes that we can get some of these grants. It would push the process along much faster***

Have a great weekend!

Best,

Michelle Polacinski
Floxie, Director, and Producer of ‘Floxed’

 

Study Finds That Antibiotics Make Viral Infections More Deadly

New research out of the Francis Crick Institute in London found that antibiotics can worsen viral infections and increase mortality when viral exposure occurs. The research findings published in Cell Reports, “Microbiota-Driven Tonic Interferon Signals in Lung Stromal Cells Protect from Influenza Virus Infection” noted that:

“Our study argues that caution should be exercised when treating patients with antibiotics. Between 2000 and 2015, worldwide antibiotic consumption is believed to have increased by 65%, much of which may be linked to inappropriate treatment of pollution- and viral-based illnesses (Klein et al., 2018). Our results suggest that inappropriate use of oral antibiotics could predispose patients to more severe influenza, because of reduced antiviral resistance of the epithelia.” (source)

When mice with healthy gut bacteria were infected with the flu, approximately 80% of them survived. However, only a third survived if they were given antibiotics before being infected.

The researchers found that antibiotics increase the vulnerability of the lungs to flu viruses, leading to worse infections and symptoms. They found that the reason for the increase in severity of flu virus symptoms was because signals from gut bacteria helped to prepare the lining of the lungs for the viral infection, and made the viral infection less potent and deadly. When antibiotics wipe out the gut bacteria, they don’t signal for the lung linings to prepare for, and fight, the oncoming flu virus, and the virus is able to multiply and proliferate in the unprepared lung linings.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Andreas Wack, stated:

“We were surprised to discover that the cells lining the lung, rather than immune cells, were responsible for early flu resistance induced by microbiota. Previous studies have focused on immune cells, but we found that the lining cells are more important for the crucial early stages of infection. They are the only place that the virus can multiply, so they are the key battleground in the fight against flu. Gut bacteria send a signal that keeps the cells lining the lung prepared, preventing the virus from multiplying so quickly.”

Gut bacteria are crucial for cell signaling, and both healthy gut bacteria and proper cell signaling are necessary for the body to mount a proper response to viral infections.

My primary response to this study is a desire to show it to everyone I know that insists on getting a prescription for antibiotics whenever he/she has the sniffles. DON’T TAKE ANTIBIOTICS FOR VIRAL INFECTIONS! They’re not only useless, they’re harmful. And they’re not only harmful because of their side-effects and because they encourage antibiotic resistance, they’re also harmful because disruption of the gut microbiome disrupts cell signaling and the ability of the body to prepare for the viral attack.

My secondary response is to wonder what the specific effect of fluoroquinolone antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, moxifloxacin, ofloxacin, and a few others) is on cell signaling and our ability to fight viral infections. “Microbiota-Driven Tonic Interferon Signals in Lung Stromal Cells Protect from Influenza Virus Infection” isn’t about fluoroquinolones in any way other than peripherally – because fluoroquinolones are antibiotics. However, there have been some recent articles about how fluoroquinolones negatively affect cellular signaling. The study, “Antibiotic-induced release of small extracellular vesicles (exosomes) with surface-associated DNA” published in Nature, found that, “ciprofloxacin induced the release of both DNA (mitochondrial and chromosomal sequences) and DNA-binding proteins on the exofacial surfaces of small extracellular vesicles referred to in this paper as exosomes.” Exosomes are cell signaling molecules, and fluoroquinolones release DNA from them.

I honestly don’t have a hypothesis connecting these two studies, but I do wonder if there are connections. Are all antibiotics inhibiting cellular signaling? Are fluoroquinolones in particular inhibiting cellular signaling? What are the consequences? I am not sure at this point, but if you want to look into these possibilities, more information about FQs and cellular signaling can be found in the post, “Ciprofloxacin Depletes Exosomal DNA” and in “Nature’s Quinolones: The 4Qs” on FluoroquinoloneThyroid.com.

Antibiotics are consequential in ways that weren’t anticipated a decade or two ago. The links between microbial health and immune health are recent discoveries. The study “Microbiota-Driven Tonic Interferon Signals in Lung Stromal Cells Protect from Influenza Virus Infection” shows us that antibiotics actually make viral infections worse. Antibiotics are not benign drugs. They have severe side-effects (as described throughout this site, and to call them simply “side-effects” is an unfortunate understatement), and as discoveries about the importance of balance, health, and diversity of our microbial communities is uncovered, the full breadth of the damage done by these drugs is being uncovered. I’m not saying that they don’t have their place – they do – but they are consequential, and we should fully weigh the consequences before taking any antibiotics.

Sources:

Cell Reports, “Microbiota-Driven Tonic Interferon Signals in Lung Stromal Cells Protect from Influenza Virus Infection

The Independent, “Antibiotics increase chances of mild flu turning deadly, study suggests: The findings show that animals are less likely to survive as the treatment can wipe out gut bacteria

Science Daily, “Antibiotics weaken flu defenses in the lung

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Floxed Friday – Levofloxacin in the Hospital

Every Friday Michelle Polacinski, a Floxie as well as the Director and Producer of ‘Floxed,’ sends out a newsletter to those who have subscribed to the ‘Floxed’ newsletter. The Floxed Friday updates are always interesting and thoughtful, and Michelle has given me permission to share them here. 
 
If you would like to receive the Floxed Friday updates directly from Michelle, please subscribe to the Floxed Documentary email list. You can subscribe through THIS LINK. Subscribing also helps Michelle to gain funding for the Floxed Documentary, and she doesn’t send out spam. 
 
The following was written by Michelle: 

I almost missed the Floxed Friday update this week because for the past few days, we have been applying to grants to finish post-production (and scheduling the rest of production – very exciting!) and I’ve been tending to my grandmother with her recent dementia episode.

Because of this, I’ve been in-and-out of the hospital, working from my phone. After getting floxed myself, I had PTSD, triggered any time I entered a hospital or even thought about a hospital. If you haven’t read my floxie story, it’s here, but TL;DR: (“too long, didn’t read” for those of you unfamiliar with internet culture), I had a horrendous experience admitted to one of the worst hospitals in Los Angeles while neurotoxic. Thanks to a ton of work with an amazing PTSD therapist, I am no longer triggered by hospitals. Still, it isn’t fun for anyone to spend three days in-and-out of one.

While waiting for a prescription antibiotic the other day (yes, I checked – it wasn’t a fluoroquinolone), I overheard someone at the window say “levofloxacin” to another patient. Although I’m not afraid of hospitals, anything with “-floxacin” makes my heart beat a little faster. I immediately questioned what to do.

Should I say something? We are in a hospital, it could be prescribed appropriately, but outpatient? Would saying something change anything or just make things worse? Would they believe me? Is it too late anyway? I didn’t even see who it was.

Sitting with my uncle, who had previously told me that a coworker of his takes Cipro regularly “with no side effects” and yes, he did tell him what happened to me, I figured that saying anything (which would violate HIPAA anyway) may not matter at all, so I sat in silence, impatiently tapping the chair. I’m already doing something. We’re making a film about this. It’s okay. They are explaining the side effects. Relax.

It’s frustrating to feel helpless in scenarios like these, especially considering you don’t want to be seen as the “crazy person” yelling at a complete stranger, telling them about that one drug that ruined your life with words like “mitochondria damage, tendonitis, and neurotoxicity,” even if that’s the first instinct. Yelling, making scenes, and applying a sense of urgency to your tone rarely makes anyone listen. Dare I say, it may hurt the cause.

Thankfully, during an interview with Dr. Joe Ketcherside, MD last week, we discussed possible solutions to end antibiotic misuse once-and-for-all. I want to tell you guys everything we discussed because as a former neurosurgeon, Joe has a lot of experience with antibiotics and a passion for change. He had a lot to say and even gave me a bit of hope. However, you will have to wait until the film is out!

Until then, we will be searching for funding so we can finish this thing and I will still visit hospitals regularly… unfortunately. If you would like to help in any way, feel free to email us.

Have a great weekend!

Best,

Michelle Polacinski
Floxie, Director, and Executive Producer of ‘Floxed’

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