Antibiotics and inflammatory bowel diseases

Dig Dis. 2013;31(3-4):379-84. doi: 10.1159/000354704. Epub 2013 Nov 14.


Inflammatory bowel diseases are characterized by an altered composition of gut microbiota (dysbiosis) that may contribute to their development. Antibiotics can alter the bacterial flora, and a link between antibiotic use and onset of Crohn's disease (CD), but not ulcerative colitis, has been reported. The hypothesis that Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) could be an etiologic agent of CD has not been confirmed by a large study on patients treated by an association of antibiotics active against MAP. The observations supporting a role of intestinal microbiota in CD pathogenesis provide the rationale for a therapeutic manipulation of the intestinal flora through the employment of antibiotics. However, current data do not strongly support a therapeutic benefit from antibiotics, and there is still controversy regarding their use as primary therapy for treatment of acute flares of CD, and for postoperative recurrence prevention. Nevertheless, clinical practice and some studies suggest that a subgroup of patients with colonic involvement, early disease, and abnormal laboratory test of inflammation may respond better to antibiotic treatment. Since their long-term use is frequently complicated by a high rate of side effects, the use of antibiotics that work locally appears to be promising.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Dysbiosis / drug therapy
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Dysbiosis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents