A commonly-prescribed type of antibiotics could be linked to heart problems, a new study out of the University of British Columbia has found.

Vancouver researchers announced Wednesday that users of fluoroquinolone – a type of antibiotic used to treat illnesses like bacterial, respiratory and urinary tract infections – have a greater risk of developing a condition where blood back flows into the heart. 

That risk is 2.4 times higher than those who use amoxicillin, another type of antibiotic. The greatest risk, researchers found, was within 30 days of taking the medication. 

Usually, doctors choose the antibiotic because it has a wide-range of antibacterial activity. It's also absorbed well when taken orally, which makes it as effective as intravenous treatment. 

"You can send patients home with a once-a-day pill," said Mahyar Etminan, lead author and associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the faculty of medicine at UBC in a news release. 

"This class of antibiotics is very convenient, but for the majority of cases, especially community-related infections, they're not really needed. The inappropriate prescribing may cause both antibiotic resistance as well as serious heart problems."

Researchers say they hope their study will draw attention to patients who have unexplained heart problems.

"One of the key objectives of the therapeutic evaluation unit is to evaluate different drugs and health technologies to determine whether they enhance the quality of care delivered by our programs or improve patient outcomes," said Dr. Bruce Carleton, director of the unit and research investigator at BC Children's Hospital. 

"This study highlights the need to be thoughtful when prescribing antibiotics, which can sometimes cause harm. As a result of this work, we will continue working with the BC Antimicrobial Stewardship Committee to ensure the appropriate prescribing of this class of antibiotics to patients across British Columbia, and reduce inappropriate prescribing."

Scientists analyzed data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's adverse reporting system and information from a private insurance health claims database. 

Medications with fluoroquinolone include Cipro, Factive, Levaquin, Avelox, Norxin and Floxin. 

UBC's study was funded and conducted by the department of ophthalmology and the Therapeutic Evaluation Unit at the Provincial Health Services Authority.