We all know that antibiotics can severely limit our immunity. Over-prescription of antibiotics has caused widespread discussion and fear about antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
A new study has analyzed exactly how our internal microbiome might interact with bacterial invaders to expand the understanding of what is necessary to fight them off. Research has found that the right balance and mix of gut bacterial types are necessary to fight off illnesses such as Clostridium difficile.
A team of scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School used C. difficile to examine how the microbiome works against pathogens. This particular infection kills over 14,000 people per year in the United States alone, and leaves hundreds of thousands more ill in hospital. Those who fall victim to C. difficile often have impaired immunity due to prescription antibiotics used against other infections.
The researchers used seven groups of mice, each given a different type of antibiotic to change their natural microbiome. The immune-altered mice were infected with C. difficile, after which their gut bacteria were analyzed and cross-referenced. The statistical comparison factor of the study is notable because previous research on gut bacteria has mostly been done on one “bacterial community” at a time, with little mass analysis.
Using these tests, the research team were able to create a computer model which could predict (with 90 percent accuracy) the likelihood of the infection being able to defeat the mouse’s microbiome, based on which bacteria were present.
Put another way, the scientists gained an understanding of which mixes of gut bacteria in the mice were more easily overcome or less susceptible to disease. This is an important discovery, because knowing which types and levels of beneficial bacteria are needed for a healthy disease-resistant gut allows us to then culture this type of ideal environment.
The research revealed that there is no one particular species of helpful bacteria which “makes or breaks” the fight against an infection such as C. difficile. It’s all about the combination, or special “recipe” with the right balance of different factors.
Think about it like this, there are many ways to make a delicious dish – let’s use spaghetti sauce as an example. One might have more pepper, another might be heavier on garlic, and yet another might use a different type of tomato. But they are each successful. Similarly, the study found that there are many different strong combinations of gut bacteria. Now, these can be analyzed and their probable success rate can be predicted.
To analyze the bacteria from the groups of mice, an advanced genetic technology was used whereby a tool was able to detect the DNA of dozens of different bacteria species. This technology is entirely new and made this breakthrough research possible.
A sophisticated computer model was used to analyze all of the DNA data, and then construct rules and recognize trends to make sense of the information.
The University of Michigan team indicated that this research may open the door to specialized targeted probiotic therapies, which can build up the necessary population in a vulnerable patient’s gut environment.
The same research team is already working on applying this important research to humans, by analyzing DNA from the microbiomes of patients who have been exposed to C. difficile. Some patients are able to carry the infection without developing symptoms, while others seem to struggle to overcome it.
Once more research is done with human subjects, this should lead to more personalized and targeted treatments. The same theory can eventually be applied to other common illnesses, such as the notoriously dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Although these new therapies are still under development, you can get started with diversifying and strengthening your microbiome today! Check out these amazing fermented foods which feed helpful bacteria into your system to help ward off illness, improve mood, help with weight loss, and more!