Cause of Osteopenia: are antibiotics a cause of bone loss ?

Cause of Osteopenia - antibiotics. The list of things that cause Osteopenia and Osteoporosis could include antibiotics.... or then again maybe not. Since antibiotics are prescribed so often, you wan to be clar about their effect on your bones.

As early as 2006 there were some reports in the media that long term use of antibiotics can be a cause of Osteoporosis or Osteopenia. If true, then persons prescribed an antibiotic for a month or more, should speak with their health care provider about diagnostic monitoring  of bone density and/or supplements to counteract the effects of the antibiotics on their bones.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature, contains very few studies concerning Cause of Osteopenia antibiotics connection.

There is one study from Poland about a male patient with lyme disease who took Vibramacin for a month. The author of the study was Hrycek A, Oslawska-Dierzega A, Kossowski M, Kasztura W. The abstract stated that:

"A male patient aged 38 was complaining from severe musculo-arthral pains and high body temperature of 39 degrees C. He was admitted to the clinical hospital after long and detailed diagnostic procedures--conducted during previous hospitalization, which focused on Plasmocytoma. Serological examinations relating to Lyme disease were undertaken in the clinical hospital and the results appeared positive. The patient received Vibramicin for a prolonged treatment lasting 30 days. Radiological findings showed distraction in both hip joints (especially the right one), with areas of bone erosion, severe osteoporosis and calcifications in periarthral soft tissues. After pharmacological treatment the body temperature normalized and the pain became less severe. The state of the patient's health improved from subjective and objective point of view." 


The other side: Osteoporois, Osteopenia antibiotic as helpful for building bone

There are also other studies that indicate that antibiotics are NOT a cause of Osteopenia or Osteoporosis. Instead they might be useful in the treatment of bone loss!

In 2010 the Journal of Dental Research published a study showing that doxycycline had a positive effect on bone.  You can read this article about Osteoporosis Osteopenia antibiotics here.

In 1998, the journal, Adv Dent Res. reported a study by Williams S, Wakisaka A, Zeng QQ, Barnes J, Seyedin S, Martin G, Wechter WJ, Liang CT. at the Gerontology Research Center, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health.

They performed the study to test the Effect of minocycline on osteoporosis and they used ovariectomized (OVX) old rats. The subjects were treated with Minocycline as a way to reduce bone resorption [bone removal] and to stimulate the formation of new bone. The study found that: that oral minocycline can effectively prevent the decrease in BMD and trabecular bone through its dual effects on bone resorption and formation.

In particular the study found that "the loss of trabecular connectivity was prevented by treatment with minocycline or estrogen". They said:

"Based on the levels of urinary pyridinoline, we showed that the effect of estrogen, but not minocycline, was primarily through its inhibitory effect on bone resorption. Analysis of bone turnover activity suggests that OVX increased parameters associated with bone resorption (eroded surface) and formation (osteoid surface, mineralizing surface, mineral apposition rate, and bone formation rate). Treatment with minocycline reduced bone resorption modestly and stimulated bone formation substantially. In contrast, treatment with estrogen drastically reduced parameters associated with both bone resorption and formation."

Tetracycline administration restores osteoblast structure and function

nother study done in 1991 showed that Tetracycline administration restores osteoblast structure and function during experimental diabetes. This study was done by Sasaki T, Kaneko H, Ramamurthy NS, Golub LM. from the Second Department of Oral Anatomy, School of Dentistry, Showa University, Tokyo, Japan.

Their abstract states:

"Osteopenia is a recognized complication of diabetes mellitus in humans and experimental animals. We recently found that tetracyclines prevent osteopenia in the streptozotocin-induced diabetic rat and that this effect was associated with a restoration of defective osteoblast morphology (Golub et al., 1990). The present study extends these initial ultrastructural observations by assessing osteoblast function in the untreated and tetracycline-treated diabetic rats.

After a 3-week protocol, non-diabetic control and diabetic rats, including those orally administered a tetracycline, minocycline (MC), or a non-antimicrobial tetracycline analog (CMT), were perfusion-fixed with an aldehyde mixture; the humeri were dissected and processed for ultracytochemical localization of alkaline phosphatase (ALPase) and Ca-ATPase activities. Some rats from each experimental group received an intravenous injection of 3H-proline as a radioprecursor of procollagen, and the humeri were processed for light microscopic autoradiography. In addition, the osteoid volume in each experimental group was quantitatively examined by morphometric analysis of electron micrographs.

During the diabetic state, active cuboidal osteoblasts in the endosteum of control rats were replaced by flattened bone-lining cells that contained few cytoplasmic organelles for protein synthesis (Golgi-RER system), and active transport (mitochondria). Treating diabetic rats with MC, and even more so with CMT, appeared to "restore" osteoblast structure. During diabetes, bone-lining cells incorporated little 3H-proline or secreted little labeled protein and produced only a very thin osteoid layer. Tetracycline administration to the diabetics increased both the incorporation of 3H-proline by osteoblasts and their secretion of labeled protein toward the osteoid matrix, in a pattern similar to that seen in the non-diabetic controls."

So are antibiotics causes of osteopenia, osteoporosis?

It appears that the jury is still out on this one. But if you are having a long treatment with antibiotics, it might be useful to ask you health care provider to monitor your bone mineral density since at least some scientists think there may be an antibiotic osteopenia, osteoporosis link.

Click here to read about more causes of Osteopenia and Osteoporosis