With a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, researchers are looking for new antibiotics in the most unusual place. What is that place? Us!
Scientists have been analyzing genes from bacteria taken from the microbiome to find antibiotic properties. It is already known that “good” gut bacteria have the ability to fight “bad” bacteria. And this also occurs all over the body. It explains why, despite the presence of bad bacteria, we can be healthy with no ill effects (or sort of as it is playing out today).
What has been found are a number of bacteria, mainly lactobacillus strains, that are capable of producing antibiotic substances called bacteriocins, which are effective against bacteria strains that are closely related to them.
However, some lactobacillus strains have been found to be effective against non-related pathogenic strains such as Listeria.
Now they have found that there is one strain, L. gasseri, that is responsible for producing many antibiotic substances and they have found a way to grow it in a lab. It produces a bacteriocin called lactocillin which can kill staphylococcus aureus and several other bad bacteria strains but not e.coli.
Since e.coli is mainly as resident of the colon where there are minimal amounts of lactobacillus, it may be that it is a strain (or strains) of bifidus bacteria that are assigned the task of eliminating e.coli. That is speculation on my part but we know something keeps e.coli at bay in a healthy colon.
So, where did they find it the L. gasseri? In the vagina, showing what a healthy area it is and how nature has protection for new babies right from the start.
L. Gasseri is well studied and has other benefits. It is the strain associated with weight loss and with aiding calcium absorption and bone density. The problem is that there are many L. gasseri strains and we don’t really know if they all have the same benefits.
It is all very fascinating. Who knew that the solution for bacterial infections may residing in us all along (or may we did know that way back when). Too bad researchers did not start there and we might have avoided all the issues caused by antibiotics.
A Systematic Analysis of Biosynthetic Gene Clusters in the Human Microbiome Reveals a Common Family of Antibiotics, Mohamed S. Donia et al, Cell, Volume 158, Issue 6, p1402–1414, 11 September 2014