The Fluoroquinolone Time Bomb – Answers in the Mitochondria

Author: 9 Comments Share:
Lisa Bloomquist
Two of the more perplexing features of Fluoroquinolone Toxicity (an adverse reaction to a fluoroquinolone antibiotic – Cipro/Ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/Levofloxacin, Avelox/Moxifloxacin or Floxin/Ofloxacin) are delayed reactions and tolerance thresholds.  Both of these features of Fluoroquinolone Toxicity can be explained by noting that fluoroquinolones have been shown to damage mitochondria and cause oxidative stress, and that delayed onset of a disease state, as well as tolerance thresholds, are features of illnesses brought on by pharmaceutical induced mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress.

Delayed Reactions and Tolerance Thresholds with Fluoroquinolone Reactions

By “delayed reactions” I mean that adverse reactions to fluoroquinolones can occur weeks, months or even years after administration of the fluoroquinolone has stopped.  For the lawsuit filed by Public Citizen on behalf of patients who tore or ruptured tendons after taking a fluoroquinolone, (a suit that prompted the addition of the black box warning on all orally and IV administered fluoroquinolones that notes that “Fluoroquinolones, including CIPRO®, are associated with an increased risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture in all ages. This risk is further increased in older patients usually over 60 years of age, in patients taking corticosteroid drugs, and in patients with kidney, heart or lung transplants”), tendon tears and ruptures that occurred within one year of the patient taking the fluoroquinolone were accepted as being related to the patient’s fluoroquinolone use. Patient reports have noted that new adverse symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity have occurred years after administration of the fluoroquinolone has ceased.

Many patients also experience a tolerance threshold for fluoroquinolone use.  A patient can tolerate fluoroquinolones well, experiencing few or no side-effects, until his or her threshold is reached.  After the patient’s tolerance threshold is reached, multisymptom systemic illness ensues. This patient’s story, found on the Fluoroquinolone Wall of Pain, illustrates the issue of tolerance thresholds:

On April 15, 2013 I was prescribed Avelox. I had been on this drug many times for chronic sinus infections. This time was different. Within 10 minutes of the first dose I went into anaphylaxis. I stopped breathing, had numerous convulsions and two grand Mal seizures. Since that day I have suffered with seizures, convulsions, tremors, debilitating fatigue, muscle weakness, vision loss, severe neuropathic pain, vomiting, nausea, lack of appetite, tendon, and vein problems.

This patient tolerated Avelox (moxifloxacin – a fluoroquinolone) well until her tolerance threshold was reached. Once her tolerance threshold was reached, she experienced multi-symptom systemic illness.

I personally experienced both a delayed reaction to Cipro/Ciprofloxacin (also a fluoroquinolone) and a tolerance threshold for it. I took 7 500-milligram pills of Cipro in 2009 without notable incident. I was even able to hike the entire 500-mile Colorado Trail in 2010 (no peripheral neuropathy or weakness were present at that time). When I took 7 more 500-milligram pills in 2011 I experienced a severe adverse reaction that began two full weeks after I was done taking the pills. I experienced multiple musculoskeletal (I couldn’t walk more than a block) and nervous system symptoms (I lost my memory and reading comprehension), and I would describe the reaction as feeling like a bomb had gone off in my body.

Fluoroquinolone Time Bomb: It’s All About the Mitochondria

My experience of a delayed onset of systemic health issues after having previously tolerated Cipro/Ciprofloxacin well, is typical of diseases that are brought on by a pharmaceutical causing mitochondrial dysfunction.  (Multiple journal articles have noted that fluoroquinolones cause mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress.)

In “Mechanisms of Pathogenesis in Drug Hepatotoxicity Putting the Stress on Mitochondria” it is noted that:

…damage to mitochondria often reflects successive chemical insults, such that no immediate cause for functional changes or pathological alterations can be established. There is indeed experimental evidence that prolonged injury to mitochondria, such as that which typifies oxidative injury to mitochondrial DNA or to components of the electron transport chain (ETC), has to cross a certain threshold (or a number of thresholds) before cell damage or cell death becomes manifest.

Each time mitochondria is injured, the patient gets closer to his or her personal tolerance threshold for mitochondrial damage.  Once the threshold is crossed, cell damage and apoptosis occur – which manifest themselves in various states of illness.

It is further explained in “Mechanisms of Pathogenesis” that:

…approximately 60% of mitochondrial DNA must be deleted from the mouse genome before complex IV activity is compromised and serum levels of lactate are elevated. This non-linear response can be explained upon consideration that the molecules that subserve mitochondrial function (e.g., mitochondrial DNA, mRNA, and ETC proteins) are present in excess of amounts required for normal cell function. This reserve (or buffering) capacity acts as a protective mechanism; however, at a certain stage of damage, the supply of biomolecules needed to support wild-type mitochondrial function becomes compromised.

The lay person’s summary of the above excerpts is that we have excess mitochondrial DNA and that excess mitochondrial DNA keeps each of us from developing a systemic multi-symptom illness whenever mitochondrial DNA is adversely affected (many pharmaceuticals and environmental toxins adversely affect mitochondrial DNA). However, when mitochondrial DNA is depleted sufficiently, cellular dysfunction, oxidative stress and cell death, ensue.

Multiple studies have noted that fluoroquinolones deplete mitochondrial DNA (here, here and here).  When enough mitochondrial DNA are depleted, adverse reactions that are systemic and include multiple symptoms simultaneously, occur.

Multi-Symptom Reaction: Look to Mitochondrial Damage

It is often difficult for the patient who is experiencing a systemic multi-symptom illness to connect his or her illness to the mitochondria damaging drug or toxin that hurt him or her because of the time delay between the cause (mitochondria damaging chemical) and the effect (bomb going off in body and mind). Though the delayed onset of fluoroquinolone toxicity and mitochondrial dysfunction symptoms are noted in many articles (here, here), the reason for the delayed onset of symptoms is not known.  In “Mechanisms of Pathogenesis” it is hypothesized that “an initial adaptive response was followed by a toxic response” when cells are exposed to a mitochondria damaging chemical.  Perhaps the delay in adverse reaction onset is due to a toxic response taking time to develop.

Many pharmaceuticals damage mitochondria. Bactericidal antibiotics (including fluoroquinolones), Statins, acetamiphen, some chemotherapy drugs, vaccines, and many others, cause mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and cell death.  Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress are connected to a variety of ailments, from chronic fatigue syndrome to Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. However, the FDA and other drug regulatory agencies have systematically ignored damage to mitochondria caused by pharmaceuticals and “mitochondrial toxicity testing is not required by the US FDA for drug approval.”

The recognition of delayed adverse reactions and tolerance thresholds for mitochondrial damaging drugs and vaccines will go far in helping both doctors and patients to recognize mitochondrial damage related adverse drug reactions (and adverse vaccine reactions).  Once the reactions are recognized, perhaps some pressure can be put on the FDA and/or the pharmaceutical companies to test how drugs affect mitochondria before they are released onto the market.  After all, mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress are causally related to almost every chronic illness.  It would be nice if doctors, those in the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA regulators, and others, recognized the harm that drugs do to mitochondria, and the symptoms of iatrogenic mitochondrial dysfunction.

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,

Photo Credit: Mark Palmer Photography,

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.

To sign up for our newsletter and receive weekly updates on the latest research news, click here.

What Else Can I Do To Help?

Hormones MatterTM is completely unfunded at this juncture and we rely entirely on crowdsourcing and volunteers to conduct the research and produce quality health education materials for the public. If you’d like help us improve healthcare with better data, get involved. Become an advocate, spread the word about our site, our research and our mission. Suggest a study. Share a study. Join our team. Write for us. Partner with us. Help us grow. For more information contact us at:



Print Friendly
Previous Article

Maternal Psychiatric Disturbances and Hormones

Next Article

It’s All About the Diet: Obesity and Mitochondrial Dysfunction

You may also like


  1. Hi,

    I read this article and I honestly think that meds in general are the issue not just antibiotics. I got very sick from an SSRI (Lexapro).

    After noticing the similarities of all sources of toxicities I started a Facebook page called Toxic Encephalopathy/Neurotoxicity Support. I’m not trying to make money or steal members. I just want to see if and how we all heal instead of dealing with a handful for each toxicity type.

  2. Delayed for me too. I took levaquin and cipro 3 times in 2011, but was also working in a hair salon that was using a LOT of formaldehyde straighteners during that time too. So I thought it was the formaldehyde. I took it again in 2014, but at that time I was doing a lot of detox treatments/neurofeedback, so I blamed it on the treatments. It wasn’t until April of this year after just 3 pills of cipro, I couldn’t move with massive anxiety, that I realized it was the cipro.

    So grateful to this site for all the info. It really does take a multi treatment approach. Not just diet and supplements. I found Art of Living meditation (yogic breathing) helpful because it works with the vagus nerve. So I try to work on vagus nerve (cold water on face, gargling, etc). Brain plasticity plays a role too, it wires itself to respond to toxic insults, it’s on threshold all the time. Essential oils (inhaled) or any happy making scents from nature help too. What may seem whoowhoo spiritual to some, actually do have scientific healing benefits.

    Lately I’ve been looking into anti-aging protocols, which I found are really directed at helping mitochondria function. Healthy internal cells, healthy younger looking. This all seems to be very promising for all “so called mysterious” illnesses.

  3. I was admitted with amebiasis.. Dr was given IV ofloxacin & ornidazole..after that I had itch and burning sensation all over the body ..gradually develops into dyspnea. And muscles shivering….. Then was treated intensively… This happened 2 weeks before only…. Fortunately I was recovered…

  4. So assuming damage is done since I have delayed onset symptoms, will the body repair itself over time? I have some tendon and muscle weakness along with other symptoms like sore dry eyes, skin burning, fatigue. Will my body produce new cells to replace the damaged ones?

  5. Dear Lisa,

    You mention that after two years of fighting back, you are recovered from the FQ symptoms. I would very much like to know what protocols- medical, natural, physical- you followed that you ascribe t your recovery. In early July I was prescribed Levoflaxacin AND prednisone to clear up the remnants of bronchitis (I simply wanted three more days of doxycycline to complete a ten-day regimen). In spite of my physician’s knowledge that I was taking Advair, am definitley over 60, and that prednisone should not be taken with Levoflaxicin, I am functioning at about 1/4 of what I used to be. Before FQ, I had more stamina and energy that my 20-years’ younger wife! Any suggestions you might have will be welcome.
    Bob Blank
    Asheville NC

    1. Hi Bob,

      I’m so sorry for everything you’re going through!

      I have recovered, and I am so, so, so grateful for it. My story, as well as the stories of others who have recovered, can be found on Please take anything that resonates with you from the stories. I encourage you to give equal weight to the mental, emotional and spiritual healing practices that you do to things like supplements and diet protocols. The mental, emotional and spiritual healing methods I used were very important in my healing process. The physical stuff was too–it’s all tied together.

      Please don’t hesitate to contact me through the “Contact” link on


  6. Good article Lisa. I hope and pray that more research is done on FQ’s so less people have their lives ruined. My body seemed to fall apart on me about 15 months after I took Cipro. All of the classic floxing symptoms began at that time. I haven’t recovered. It’s been over 3 years since I took Cipro. It was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. I had no idea that I would get basically a disease that has no cure.

  7. Thank you for the comment, Bo! Your situation is similar to that of many people. Delayed reactions and tolerance thresholds are common. Hopefully they will be recognized by healthcare providers soon.

  8. Agree wtih “Many patients also experience a tolerance threshold for fluoroquinolone use” Agree with “delayed reaction to Cipro/Ciprofloxacin (also a fluoroquinolone) ”

    I had taken Fluoroquinolones many times even ever since I was a kid. Each time I took for about 1000mg/day for several days, no problem at all. In 2013 some doctor gave me 1000mg/day for 42 days, and problems began to show up immediately after I took them. (Threshold)
    3 months later, I got more attacks that are much more serious. (Delay)

    – Bo HongBo Guo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *