Many of you may not yet be familiar with the term bacteriophage. These are viruses that infect bacteria: literally the word means “bacteria eater.” I’ve been reading about their use in treating bacterial infection, as an alternative to antibiotics, especially in this age of growing antibiotic resistance.[i]
Just last month, a clinical study was published that confirmed the safety and tolerability of specific bacteriophages to eliminate bad gut bacteria. 31 people with major gut distress (but no specific GI disorder) were involved in the study and assigned either a placebo or a treatment group for 4 weeks. They then had a 2 week washout period, and then were switched to the other group for another 4 weeks. The treatment group were receiving 4 kinds of bacteriophages that kill E.coli. During the 4 weeks of treatment, the participants had markedly lower levels of interleukin-4, an inflammatory cytokine associated with allergy. Also, in the individuals at risk for metabolic syndrome, the researchers noted an increase in beneficial Bifidobacterium strains.[ii]
A few days ago, researchers presented a new (to me) side of bacteriophages. These scientists noted that there was an abundance of Lactococcus phages in patients with Parkinson’s disease, which led to a 10-fold reduction in Lactococcus, a bacterium which produces dopamine and also modifies the permeability of the gut. They also found a significant reduction in other common gut bacteria, including Streptococcus and Lactobacillus.
Says Dr. Tetz, the lead researcher, “The depletion of Lactococcus due to high numbers of strictly lytic phages in PD patients might be associated with PD development and directly linked to dopamine decrease as well as the development of gastrointestinal symptoms of PD.”[iii] (Lysis is the process of killing a cell by rupturing its walls.)
It’s early days yet, so stay tuned on this one.
[i] Lin, DM, Koskella, B, Lin, HC. Phage therapy: An alternative to antibiotics in the age of multi-drug resistance. World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2017. 6;8(3):162-173.