Are Muramyl Peptides The Magic Bullet In Probiotics?
Magazines like Time, Newsweek, and U.S. World and News are all buzzing about the latest health trend, probiotics. Researchers have found compelling evidence that these friendly bacteria are an important key to digestive and immune health, but Eastern Europeans have been savvy to the health benefits of probiotics, found in fermented foods such as yogurt, for centuries. While Western medicine is beginning to tout probiotic benefits, Russian scientists have been aware of these characteristics for decades, and took investigations further by deconstructing the friendly bacteria to study cell components.
In fact, Russian and Ukrainian researchers used special strains of probiotics as raw materials for high-powered immune-support supplements during the Cold War period up until the mid-1980s. Soviet Scientists, responding to directives from their government, found that cell pieces of specific strains of probiotics, or lactobacillus bacteria, had a powerful protective action against bio-warfare agents. The researchers also discovered the probiotic cell pieces helped protect cancer patients against the effects of radiation and chemotherapy, were safe, and had no side-effects.
The Russian scientists discovered one key to these results are muramyl peptides, part of the complex sugars that become available when probiotic cells are fractured in the "lysing" process, which digests the cell wall. Eastern European researchers have been using the lysing technique for several decades, but the laboratory technique is barely on biotech manufacturing radar in the U.S.
"Comparing a live probiotic and a lysed one, in terms of immune system support, is like comparing a match to a blowtorch," said Dr. Elin Ritchie of Taos, N.M. Dr. Ritchie has been using a lysed lactobacillus product, Del-Immune V, for the last five years in cases including colds and flu. Ritchie has also had success with cancer patients. "I have given the product to hundreds of patients. The product is safe and has no contra-indications with drugs or other supplements," she said. Dr. Ritchie added that teachers are the product's biggest fans, as it helps them avoid the worst of the winter crud.
Other doctors are using the lysed cell product as well. "I have been recommending this product (Del-Immune V) for many patients. When I began using it, I couldn't believe its effectiveness in a variety of immune issues," said Dr. Ted Hayashida of Gardiner, Calif.
Research shows the striking effects of lysed probiotics are due to muramyl peptides in the cell fragments. "European doctors went deeper to understand the healthy role of probiotics decades ago, and used the bacteria as a jumping-off point for a new bio-technology. In simple terms, muramyl peptides regulate the correlation between different branches of the human immune system. When probiotics are lysed, the muramyl peptides become bio-available. The muramyl peptides organize an immune response to foreign invaders and environmental pathogens," said Dr. Luba Shynkarenko, former dean of the Institute of Biotechnology, National Technical University, Kiev, Ukraine.
During the 1980s, Shynkarenko worked as a Soviet microbiologist, and saw her research on lysed probiotics develop into products used for everything from adjunctive cancer therapies to radiation protection after the Chernobyl accident. Now living in the Boulder, Colo., she said she would like to see deeper probiotic research in the West. Shynkarenko is not surprised to see Del-Immune V, the grandchild of her original research, gaining popularity among patients and doctors, even though it is a nutritional supplement. "Healthy flora bacteria are the answer to a multitude of health issues - discovery in the West has really just begun," she said.