New York, June 11 (IANS) Using bacteria-specific viruses, known as bacteriophages, to eliminate disease-causing bacteria in the gut has been found to be safe and promising as an alternative treatment to antibiotics in an early human trial.
“We have shown for the first time that bacteriophage treatment has no apparent side effects, at least with short-term use,” said study co-investigator Taylor Wallace from George Mason University in Virginia, US.
The new treatment could be used in place of antibiotics to rid the gut of harmful bacteria and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria that are known to enhance gastrointestinal health, immune function and anti-inflammatory processes, showed the results presented at American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting, Nutrition 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts.
“People taking antibiotics can develop resistance and experience gastrointestinal distress since antibiotics kill both bad and good bacteria in the gut,” Wallace said.
“Using viruses that infect only specific types of bacteria spares the many good bacteria in the gut, which are linked to numerous long-term beneficial health outcomes,” Wallace added.
The study included a small group of 31 people who reported significant gastrointestinal distress at the beginning of the study, but who were not diagnosed with any specific gastrointestinal disorder.
Study participants were assigned to either a placebo or treatment group for the first four weeks of the study, followed by a two-week washout period and an additional four weeks on the opposite treatment.
The treatment group received four bacteriophage strains that specifically eliminate E. coli, a pathogen that can contribute to gastrointestinal irregularities and stomach upsets.
The study participants tolerated the bacteriophage treatment well, with no adverse events reported during the four weeks of treatment, the study said.
During the bacteriophage treatment, the researchers observed significant decreases in interleukin 4, an inflammatory marker often associated with allergic response.
There were also changes in differential abundance of several other gut bacterial species, including reductions in Clostridium perfringens and increases in several health-promoting bacterial species.
The researchers said that bacteriophages might also be useful for eliminating nutritional deficiencies due to chronic diarrohea in developing countries and are seeking larger-scale support to test which strains might be best for this application.
Chronic diarrohea and associated malnutrition are the second most common causes of childhood death worldwide.