Vitamin B3 is no replacement for new antibiotics

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Combining vitamin B3 (niacin) with current antibiotics may help to better treat staph infections, according to new research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

For the study, scientists from Oregon State University found that mice and human blood cells treated with large doses of vitamin B3 combated staph infections more effectively, compared to control samples.

While obviously preliminary, some experts found the results exciting; however, the researchers warned that if used in humans, excess vitamin B3 should only be taken when someone is already fighting a serious staph infection, rather than as a preventive measure. That s because large doses of niacin are difficult to tolerate, causing abdominal distress and severe flushing; also, consistently high levels of the vitamin can lead to adverse health effects, including liver damage or even heart attack.

Niacin, the authors conclude, may help fight staph infections by increasing the number of white blood cells, which attack invading bacteria. When used in conjunction with antibiotics, the effect is even more robust since it may also assist in reducing drug resistance.

But ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom believes the new study is a clear indication of the dire state of current antibiotic research. To have reached the point where anyone is seriously considering the use of large doses of vitamins to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria is rather pathetic," he says, "and reeks of desperation.

ACSH friend Dr. David Seres, director of the Medical Nutrition and Nutrition Support Service in the Division of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center, has his own take on the study. This research is part of a whole new area of study attempting to find alternatives to traditional antibiotics, he says, since so many organisms are becoming resistant. But this study has absolutely no data to assess whether humans with bacterial infections will actually respond to niacin therapy. And simply because it happens to be a vitamin does not in any way qualify it as an effective or safe therapy.