For starters, it seems the overuse of antibiotics is harmful to both species, say researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, and it has to do with the impact of antibiotic treatment on the gut microbiome. Specifically, they determined that treated honeybees were half as likely to live out the week when compared to non-treated bees.
Study authors say it’s because their gut bacteria are in many ways similar to that of humans. With this in mind, they dosed a number of bees with common antibiotics to see how they fared. Sadly, only one-third of the treated bees recovered.
Antibiotic means “against life”
Because antibiotics also kill off many good bacteria while attempting to eliminate the bad guys, the disruption in bacterial balance left the bees vulnerable to infection from diseases that normally wouldn’t affect them.
“It’s just like in humans,” said study author Kasie Raymann in a recent news article. “When you are given antibiotics, you are more susceptible to getting different bacterial infections, so it seems to be true in bees, too.” And just like humans, honeybees tend to share bacteria. That means the effects can be passed on from one bee to another.
Findings from the study, published in the journal PLOS Biology, spotlight the need for caution when prescribing and using antibiotics—especially considering the role our gut microbes play in supporting overall health. “These bacteria are very beneficial to you, so disrupting them can have harmful side effects,” Raymann added.