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How Good Bacteria Naturally Fight Infection

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists have discovered how good bacteria in the body behave to boost the immune system and fight infection. Bacteria that flourish in the human body have long been known to help boost immunity, and now researchers know how it naturally happens.

Bacteria can cause harm while others help human health and fight against infection. The skin, respiratory tract and digestive system contain bacteria known as commensal bacteria that perform a variety of functions including boosting immunity. Bacteria in the digestive system, of which there are 500 to 1000 different species, are an example of good bacteria that naturally help fight infection.

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A study from researchers at Loyola University Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine, led by Katherine L. Knight, PhD, studied spores from a type of bacteria found in the digestive tract from the Bacillus species. When bacteria make spores from their own DNA it is in response to stress – such as infection from bacteria and virus. When the researchers exposed an immune fighting blood cell, called a B-lymphocyte to the spores they found the lymphocytes increased in numbers to defend the body against infection.

They also found out that the spores and lymphocytes bind together to fight infection. The binding of spores to molecules on the immune fighting cells triggers division and reproduction of B-lymphocytes to help conquer infection.

The researchers suggest the discovery about how good bacteria fight infection could lead to novel ways to treat individuals with weakened immune systems. Dr. Knight warns research would take years, but now scientists know more about how good bacteria naturally fight infection.

Journal of Immunology 2010: doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1000155