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New Probiotic May Treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease


Scientists at the University of Bristol say they have identified a new probiotic strain that could be used to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The strain, which the researchers have patented, can reduce pro-inflammatory responses to the microorganisms associated with IBD.

New probiotic is ready for clinical trials

Use of probiotics—beneficial or “friendly” bacteria—for prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders has demonstrated fair to very good success, depending on the condition. For inflammatory bowel disease, which mainly includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, much of the success has come from helping patients maintain remission rather than in treating active disease. But why?

Because iron levels rise during active IBD, and high iron inhibits the growth of probiotic bacteria, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are the most common probiotics on the market. Pathogens, however, thrive in the presence of high levels of iron and can increase their growth rate by up to 8,000 times.

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To remedy this situation, Dr. Tristan Cogan, research fellow in the School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Bristol, explained that he and his research team “considered the properties that a probiotic would need to treat IBD. Most importantly, it would need to be able to survive and grow in the presence of high levels of iron and to reduce inflammation.”

The team’s search led them to finally identify a strain that meets their requirements, and “our next step will be to test the probiotic in clinical trials,” according to Cogan. Their research is important because it suggests high iron levels is the reason probiotics have not been successful in treating active inflammatory bowel disease, and that this new probiotic may be an answer and possibly lead to more options in the future.

An estimated 1 to 2 million people in the United States have some form of inflammatory bowel disease. The disease is about four times more common among whites than other races, and it is 4 to 5 times more prevalent among American Jews than the general population.

Currently, an array of drugs are used to treat IBD, including azathioprine (Imuran), corticosteroids (prednisone), cyclosporine, infliximab (Remicade), mesalamine (Asacol), methotrexate, and sulfasalazine (Azulfadine). All of these medications cause side effects, and some of them can be serious. Availability of a new probiotic, which has minimal to no side effects, to treat inflammatory bowel disease would be welcomed by many who suffer with the disease.

University of Bristol