Monday, August 20, 2012


"Taking out thorn with thorn" is an old saying meaning that any treatment to succeed, its intensity has to be equally as strong as the cause of the ailment. This is an approach increasingly becoming a feasible proposition in treating some infections caused by pathogens in humans. Recent reports suggesting that one of the Lactobacillus species viz L.reuteri can be an effective antidote to neutralize the pathogens are encouraging and already there are many patents on the proprietary ownership of some of the strains foreseeing the commercial potential of these findings. L.reuteri is an ubiquitous microorganism residing in the guts of mammals and birds and it was only in 1980s its full identification was made. It is a major component of gut microorganisms and occur practically every where including milk and meat products. However in some persons these microbes were not found, reasons for which are not well understood. It is thanks to L reuteri that most human beings are able to shake off most of the minor gastrointestinal infections encountered in day to day life. More importantly L.reuteri can inhibit the growth of one of the scourges of modern food industry, Salmonella which is causing hundreds of food poisoning episodes world-wide. The antibiotic effect of this beneficial bug has been attributed to excretion of chemicals like 3-hydroxypropionaldehyde, its hydrate and the dimer, collectively called Reuterin.     

"Their results demonstrated that this beneficial or probiotic organism, which produces an antimicrobial substance known as reuterin, may protect intestinal epithelial cells from infection by the foodborne bacterial pathogen Salmonella. Cheryl Nickerson and her group at ASU's Biodesign Institute, in collaboration with an international team including Tom Van de Wiele and lead author Rosemarie De Weirdt at Ghent University, Belgium, conducted the study. It examines for the first time the effect of reuterin during the infection process of mammalian intestinal cells and suggests the efficacy of using probiotic bacteria or their derivatives in future therapies aimed at thwarting Salmonella infection. Intestinal infections by non-typhoidal Salmonella strains induce diarrhea and gastroenteritis, and remain a leading source of foodborne illness worldwide. Such infections are acutely unpleasant but self-limiting in healthy individuals. For those with compromised immunity however, they can be deadly and the alarming incidence of multi-drug resistant Salmonella strains has underlined the necessity of more effective therapeutics. The use of benign microorganisms offers a promising new approach to treating infection from pathogens like Salmonella and indeed, L. reuteri has been shown to help protect against gastrointestinal infection and reduce diarrhea in children. The origin of L. reuteri's protective role still remains unclear. While it has been speculated that reuterin acts by regulating immune responses or competing with Salmonella for key binding sites, the current study represents the first in vitro examination of host-pathogen interactions using human intestinal epithelium in the presence of reuterin-producing L reuteri."

The early stage immunity in newly born babies was thought to be due to presence of Lactobacillus bifidi present in breast milk but after the discovery of L.reuteri, there is a new thinking that this organism also must be contributing to the health of the baby. However one peculiar feature of production of Reuterin is that glycerol is a precursor from which the antibiotic brew is produced. Of course glycerol is a component of Tri Carboxylic Acid (TCA) cycle or Krebs cycle involved in energy metabolism in humans and therefore L.reuteri can always produce the antibiotic in the gut region to the extent required to counteract the undesirable action of unfriendly microorganisms. Another interesting benefit of L.reuteri is that it can effectively protect teeth from the decays caused by Streptococcus mutans, found in the oral cavity of many people. Therapeutic preparations of L.reuteri are now available for rehabilitating the heath of gut microbiome as well as to ensure good dental health. Sensing the business potential offered by this unique bug there are yogurt products being offered in the market fortified with L.reuteri, though no one is sure how far such products are superior to normally made yogurts.


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