Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics and Systemic Fungal Infections – A Real Problem

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Lisa Bloomquist flouroquinolone antibiotics
Assignment – write about how fluoroquinolone (Cipro/Ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/Levofloxacin, Avelox/Moxifloxacin and Floxin/Ofloxacin) use can cause deadly systemic fungal infections.

It has been a difficult assignment for me to complete because I have read so much about the havoc that fluoroquinolones wreak on cells – they deplete mtDNA, cause chromosomal abnormalities, disrupt the balance of minerals within cells, cause oxidative stress, etc.  All of these effects of fluoroquinolones cause harm to those who take them.  So, it has been difficult for me to shift modes, from thinking that the damage mechanism for fluoroquinolones is cellular damage, to noting that damage can be done by systemic fungal infections that take root after the fluoroquinolones have killed all of the good bacteria in the gut.  It’s not an either/or situation though.  Fluoroquinolones can cause cellular damage AND they can kill all of the good bacteria in the gut, leaving the person who takes the fluoroquinolone susceptible to systemic fungal infections.  Fungal infections are one of the many chronically harmful effects of fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

All broad-spectrum antibiotics can cause fungal infections. The “use of antimicrobials is the main reason for the loss of the normal flora and its replacement by potentially pathogenic microorganisms, such as gram-negative aerobic bacilli and Candida species.”  This is another reason that I am struggling with this post.  I have written multiple posts going over how fluoroquinolones are categorically different from all the other antibiotics.  (They are more similar to chemotherapy drugs than they are to penicillin.)  None of the other classes of antibiotics cause a chronic syndrome that includes destruction of all connective tissue throughout the body – including tendons, muscles, cartilage, etc.  None of the other classes of antibiotics damage all the nervous systems – including the central, peripheral and autonomic nervous systems.  Fluoroquinolones do.

Again, it’s not an either/or situation though.  It is possible that some of the symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity stem from systemic fungal infections, while others stem from cellular damage.  Symptoms like fatigue, brain-fog, food intolerances, etc. that occur both with fluoroquinolone toxicity and candida-related complex may be the result of fungal infections in those who are suffering from fluoroquinolone toxicity or they may be a result of mitochondrial damage, or both.  Fluoroquinolone toxicity and candida-related complex are not mutually exclusive diseases.  In fact, there may be a huge amount of overlap between the two.  It was noted in an article entitled Levofloxacin and Moxifloxacin Increase Human Gut Colonization by Candida Species that fluoroquinolones, “significantly increase the concentration of Candida species in the human gut.  Hence, these agents should be used with caution in patients at risk for systemic fungal infections.”  Patients at risk for systemic fungal infections include those who are immunocompromised, on corticosteroid drugs and other risk factors. In addition to causing cellular damage, fluoroquinolones also open the door for colonization of candida in the gut of those who take them.

Perhaps I shouldn’t downplay the severity of fungal infections.  It is not “just” a fungal infection, just like an adverse reaction to a fluoroquinolone is not “just” a side-effect – both are chronic syndromes.  They are not a light matter.  If a systemic fungal infection takes hold, it can be deadly – and often is.  Debra Anderson noted in her post “Glabrata – A Deadly Post Fluoroquinolone Risk You’ve Never Heard Of” that 67-90% of diagnosed blood borne glabrata cases are fatal.  Debra’s glabrata infection was brought on by a combination of steroids and fluoroquinolone antibiotics. The steroids weakened her immune system, the fluoroquinolones killed all of the good bacteria in her gut that were keeping the candida at bay, and the glabrata (a kind of candida) took over.  She is fighting a tough battle.  It’s a battle for her life and it is nothing to trivialize.  Debra is one of two “floxie” friends of mine who are battling glabrata.  The other friend has recently received a diagnosis of terminal from her doctor, she has entered hospice care and she does not expect to last much longer.

Systemic candida has been trivialized by many though – “Conventional medical practitioners do not recognize candida-related complex as a disease.”  Candida causes symptoms like  chronic congestion, sugar cravings, food intolerances, difficulty thinking / brain fog, skin rashes, reoccurring yeast and urinary tract infections, etc.  There is a tendency to dismiss these symptoms as insignificant because they are difficult to measure and quantify, they are based on patient reports, and it is easy to think of them as things that everyone experiences.  Who doesn’t have sugar cravings and brain fog? The fact that popular diets abound diminishing candida exist, and thus self-diagnosis is common, don’t help to encourage traditional medical practitioners to recognize the symptoms of candida-related complex.  However, there are thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles noting the very real problems of candida infections.  Systemic, chronic candida infections are real – and serious.

Systemic fungal infections are also serious because they are difficult to treat.  Fungi adapt quickly to anti-fungal drugs, and develop resistance to them.  Candida form biofilms.  Biofilms “consist of matrix-enclosed microcolonies of yeasts and hyphae, arranged in a bilayer structure. The biofilms are resistant to a range of antifungal agents currently in clinical use, including amphotericin B and fluconazole, and there appear to be multiple resistance mechanisms.”*  Additionally, antifungal drugs can be dangerous in themselves.  Many antifungal drugs cause kidney and liver failure, which can lead to death.

Per the article Antifungal Resistance and New Strategies to Control Fungal Infections, “At the beginning of the 20th century, bacterial epidemics were a global and important cause of mortality. In contrast, fungal infections were almost not taken into account. Since the late 1960s when antibiotic therapies were developed, a drastic rise in fungal infections was observed, and they currently represent a global health threat.”  The global health threat of fungal infections is serious, and not something to trivialize.  Fungal infections can be deadly, and the treatment options for getting rid of them are limited.

The causal link between antibiotics and fungal infections should be thoroughly considered by both doctors and patients before unnecessarily strong antibiotics are prescribed or administered, especially before they are prescribed in conjunction with corticosteroid drugs. It should be noted that, “use of antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs such as corticosteroids are major factors contributing to higher frequency of fungal infections. Antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs, by disrupting normal bacterial colonization and suppressing the immune system, create an environment within the body in which fungi can thrive.” Whether fungal infections manifest themselves in ways that are not life-threatening but do inhibit a person’s quality of life – like developing food intolerances or brain fog – or whether they become systemic and life-threatening – like bloodstream glabrata infections – they are real and should be taken seriously.

Antibiotic use has consequences. The rise in fungal infections is one of the consequences of antibiotic use.  As very strong antibiotics that also damage mammalian cells, fluoroquinolones have even more consequences than other kinds of antibiotics.  Sorting out which symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity are a result of cellular damage and which symptoms are a result of fungal infections is not something that has yet occurred or been written up in scientific literature.  Both cellular damage and fungal infections should be taken seriously though –they are not trivial and they can be deadly.

The glabrata form of candida is particularly difficult to diagnose and treat because the fungi don’t have hyphae.  More information can be found in Debra Anderson’s article, “Without hyphae, it is very difficult to culture, biopsy or see glabrata under a microscope. Due to the fact that it cannot be easily diagnosed, it is usually is not discovered in a person until they are very sick and by then it is a race against time to save the individual.”

Information about Fluoroquinolone Toxicity

Information about the author, and adverse reactions to fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin and Floxin/ofloxacin) can be found on Lisa Bloomquist’s site, www.floxiehope.com.

Participate in Research

Hormones MatterTM is conducting research on the side effects and adverse events associated with the fluoroquinolone antibiotics, Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox and others: The Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics Side Effects Study. The study is anonymous, takes 20-30 minutes to complete and is open to anyone who has used a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. Please complete the study and help us understand the scope of fluoroquinolone reactions.

Hormones MatterTM conducts other crowdsourced surveys on medication reactions. To take one of our other surveys, click here.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the reply Lisa

    I was thinking more of the amount of sun one gets and dryer locations than elevation. So many sunny days in Denver, and very dry. People with candida problems are thought to be worse in humid conditions. I know my symptoms are worse when it’s hot and humid here.

    The other thing I wanted ask you about was MTHFR gene mutation how those with it may possibly be at greater risk for floxing? I have 1 of the 2 gene mutations and should take methylated B vitamins because my body can’t process regular B’s. Again just thought it would be interesting to know if there was any connection with this and who gets floxed and who doesnt.

    Good luck on the garden…I once grew lettuce and spinach in Windsor, in January, in my raised beds under clear plastic tents. It was like 70 degrees inside when 20 degrees outside.

    Mike

  2. Hello Saint Lisa…Thank you for being you

    I just found this post of yours and had some questions for if you have a minute(I doubt it)

    Do you think that you recovered from being floxed because you were able to re balance your gut? I’ve read that you said you lived a really clean/spotless life for 2 years after being floxed. Did you also take any probiotics during this time? My thought and my personal real life experience leads me to believe that FQ(the worst) and antibiotics ingeneral lead to yeast/fungus/candida growth in the small intestine. These bad bugs seem to like most things we like to eat, especially sugar. We/they or is it they/we crave sugar?! After they assume power in our guts with the help of antibiotics we help them flourish with the Standard American Diet(sad). Once in office these pariah cause nutritional deficiencies (like B-vitamins) and produce toxins (acetaldehyde).( Like my current political climate tie in I’ve got going here ? 😉 We then get sick in all sorts of various ways, or one all encompassing way-mitochondrial damage. The particular illness depends on an individuals genetic make up perhaps. Now this idea doesn’t account for the poor people who took three pills of cipro and body parts instantly ruptured. But I think it does with the people who were slowly toxing themselves over the years with repeated use of this antibiotic/SAD combo. Their gut make up was pro fungus/pro toxicity for years. The people now with fibromyalgia, idiopathic neuropathies, sibo, ibs, MS etc etc. The fungus ends up causing a lot gut-brain diseases down the road. All thanks to cipro and his other antibiotic gang members destroying your gut balance, your inner gardens ability to absorb what you need to survive and thrive. Leaving you defenseless against the onset of chronic disease and pain. Just a theory but I thought it matched pretty good with your article here.

    I planted various mellons/squash in my yard this year and watched how white fungus spread over the leaves. Fungus seems to like moisture and darkness(dont water at night). The leaves that got covered died, and the plant usually did too shortly after. Especially the leaves and plants that received more shade during the day. Now I didn’t spray sugar or antibiotics on these plants, but the fungus still managed to cover and kill them under the right conditions. Your gut has a better defense system than that of the plant but is dark and moist. Add antibiotics and sugar to it … “uh Houston we have a problem”. Just an interesting comparison from the outer garden to the inner garden I think. Humans tend to think they are above simpler things(plants/animals), but I’m not always to sure we are.

    Always thought it would be interesting to know if there was any geographical pattern to people who have been floxed, and eventually recovered. I have read that you live in Colorado, I used to live in Colorado(moved to California-BIG mistake) Lots of sunny days and dry conditions in Colorado. Maybe a factor, who knows, but could be interesting to find out. In the meantime enjoy the Rocky Mountains for me 🙂

    Is there a legitimate, Affordable way to test for microchondrial damage? A series of Affordable blood tests that at least would say yes this is a good/bad possibility? I know of the muscle biopsy but good luck getting insurance to cover that expensive one.

    Any knowledge of Low Dose Naltrexone(ldn) working in floxies?

    Thanks for your time Saint Lisa…keep spreading The Hope…”rebellions are built on hope”

    Mike

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m glad to help if/when I can.

      My gut health is actually up and down. I’m truthfully going through a bit of a down period right now. The things that seem to have helped others through gut problems are various diets. The Wahls Protocol has helped many people, including lots of people with MS and “floxies.” Anti-candida diets also tend to be positively reviewed. Probiotic supplements and foods have always been well-tolerated by my gut, but some people have issues with histamine, and those foods are high in histamine, so be aware of that. Another thing that makes diet changes difficult is that some “floxies” have trouble with oxalates, and a lot of foods that are “good for you” like spinach, rhubarb, and even raspberries, are high in oxalates. 🙁 It’s difficult to know exactly what to do. Cutting sugar and processed foods is definitely good for you, and if one of the specific gut-healing diets can’t be adhered to, at least getting rid of sugar and processed foods is a good place to start.

      B vitamins and antioxidant supplements help to support your mitochondria.

      The last time I looked into it, the most reliable tests of mitochondria functioning were muscle biopsies. I’m not willing to do something invasive and painful like that, so I stopped looking. I suggest that you ask some naturopaths and functional medicine doctors for advice on testing your mitochondria.

      I suspect that being at lower altitudes is helpful for healing. BUT, I healed while living in Denver, so there’s that. People from all over the world get hurt by these drugs, and people from all over can heal. Other than personally feeling better when I’m at lower altitudes, I don’t know that there’s any geographical differences in getting “floxed” or healing.

      I’ve heard good things about low-dose naltraxone.

      I just bought a home with a yard and am going to begin gardening soon. I will keep in mind your advice about not watering at night so as to avoid mold. 🙂

      Regards,
      Lisa

      1. Hello Again Lisa

        You out there busy girl? I saw a post from you to Dr Lonsdale a few years back pertaining to his Thiamine deficiency problem theory/reality. I was wondering if you investigated this further, did you ever have this Erythrocyte Transketolase test he mentions as the right diagnostic to test Thiamine deficiency? I noticed there was possibly a lab in Boulder that did this obscure test at some point. I tested my Thiamine and it was low normal and my magnesium is always normal. But according to some these basic blood tests aren’t accurate measures of these important minerals in our bodies. Such a mirage all this health stuff is, we stagger through this desert of chronic illness wondering what is truly real. Is it a tropical oasis of health or just more shifting sand beneath our feet? At least fungus doesn’t grow on sand…I don’t think? Half-full 😉

        Have you ever tried any of these high dose Thiamine therapy’s, IV’s or lipothiamine?

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