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J Antimicrob Chemother. 1994 Jan;33(1):63-72.

Effect of antimicrobial therapy on the gastrointestinal bacterial flora, infection and mortality in mice exposed to different doses of irradiation.

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Experimental Hematology Department, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Bethesda, Maryland.


The effect of antimicrobial therapy on gut flora, sepsis, and mortality was investigated in C3H/HeN female mice irradiated with 7.0, 8.0 or 8.5 Gy or 60Co. The antimicrobial agents tested were metronidazole, penicillin, imipenem, gentamicin and ofloxacin. In control mice, the greatest reduction of lactose fermenting organisms (1.7-2.8 logs) occurred on day 8 after irradiation and were related directly to radiation doses. After day 8, lactose fermenting organism levels increased and the increases were associated with mortality due to Enterobacteriaceae sepsis. Irradiation reduced the populations of strict anaerobic bacteria in control mice by 2-8 logs, and these remained at low levels. Treatment with either metronidazole or penicillin resulted in greater reductions of strict anaerobic bacteria than occurred in the controls and induced earlier and greater increases in lactose fermenting organisms and associated mortality. Therapies with either gentamicin or ofloxacin resulted in lesser reductions of strict anaerobic bacteria (1.1-2.2 logs) than occurred in controls, and caused greater decreases in lactose fermenting organisms and mortality. The changes in the bacterial flora and mortality following imipenem treatment were similar to controls. These data demonstrate that in animals exposed to irradiation, antimicrobial agents effective against strict anaerobic bacteria can be deleterious, but antimicrobial agents effective against lactose fermenting organisms may be beneficial.

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