Researchers find probiotic strain that 'treats' IBD

When it comes to helping diseases of the gut, if the therapy can’t survive the trip down, it can’t do its job when it gets there. But an exciting new probiotic strain shows promise for people suffering with IBD and even Crohn’s.

Scientists in England have identified—and patented—a strain of probiotic bacteria that is believed to be effective in treating inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, rather than just keeping them at bay.

In a study carried out at the University of Bristol, and published online in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers said the strain was found to be resistant to high levels of iron. This is thought to be significant for two reasons. Firstly, the growth of probiotic bacteria is usually inhibited by iron; and secondly iron levels in the intestine are known to increase during active IBD.

This means that while there is strong evidence that commonly used probiotics have been shown to maintain remission in IBD, evidence of their effectiveness in treating active disease is rare. But the University of Bristol researchers say they have now found a scientific ‘design’ for a probiotic that could be used to treat patients suffering from the condition, and which they have now protected with a patent.

Tristan Cogan, PhD, research fellow at the University of Bristol, said: “When we started our study we 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. We then worked out how to test bacteria to see whether it had these properties.

“The difficult step was finding a bacterium that had all of the properties that we wanted. Now we have found something that looks like it should work, our next step will be to test the probiotic in clinical trials."

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