Washington, Feb 10: Scientists have figured out why bad bugs such as E. coli thrive in the guts of those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a discovery that could open the way to better therapy.
Researchers led by Sebastian E. Winter and Andreas J. Baumler from the University of California, Davis, discovered a biological mechanism by which harmful bacteria grow, edge out beneficial bacteria and damage the gut in IBD.
“Much like humans use oxygen, E. coli can use nitrate as a replacement for oxygen to respire, produce energy and grow,” said Baumler, professor of medical microbiology and immunology, who led the study, the journal Science reports.
“In IBD, nitrate produced by inflammation in the gut allows E. coli to take a deep ‘breath,’ and beat out our beneficial microbes in the competition for nutrients,” he said, according to a California statement.
In test-tube and animal studies, they found that potentially harmful gut bugs called Enterobacteriaceae use nitrate – a byproduct formed during the intestinal inflammation in IBD – to grow and thrive.
Enterobacteriaceae strains include certain E. coli, and can worsen the intestinal damage of IBD. Eventually, the intestines of those with IBD become overrun by harmful bacteria, and the numbers of normal good bacteria in the gut decrease.
IBD covers a group of disorders in which the intestines become inflamed (red and swollen), probably as a result of an immune reaction of the body against its own intestinal tissue.