The medical community has begun to develop a better understanding of the role gut health plays in a person's overall well-being over the past few years. However, much remains unanswered about the different roles good and bad bacteria play within the body.
Through a mouse investigation, a Yale University research has added another piece to this puzzle: gut bacteria can grow and become more harmful than beneficial. As such, the bacteria can invade other organs in the body, causing inflammation and other health problems.
The research was just published in the Nature journal.
What happens when intestinal permeability rises?
The good bacteria that reside in the gut microbiome aid the body in a number of ways, such as in absorbing needed nutrients and in aiding nerve function.
If a person's gut microbiome becomes unbalanced and contains more bad bacteria than good bacteria, the body's immune system may be triggered. This can sometimes allow bacteria and toxins inside the intestines to breach the intestinal walls and enter the body's bloodstream.
Increased intestinal permeability (IP) is also termed leaky gut.
Increased IP has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including:
Studying inside-host evolution
inflammatory bowel disease(IBS)
- Crohns disease
- autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, lupus, and multiple sclerosis
Dr. Noah Palm, a senior author at Yale University, and his team examined whether gut bacteria that changed while within the body, called within-host evolution, had a higher IP rate, possibly causing chronic inflammation.
Dr. Palm and his colleagues conducted a mouse experiment to examine a particular gut bacteria known as Enterococcus gallinarum (E. gallinarum). This particular bacteria has been linked to infections such as urinary tract infection, pelvic infection, and endocarditis when the heart's inner lining becomes inflamed.
Researchers studied E. gallinarum in a mouse model and discovered that certain DNA mutations allowed it to live inside the intestinal walls' lining, eventually escaping the gut and landing in the lymph nodes and liver.
For a time, the bacteria remained largely hidden outside of the gut, according to the researchers. The immune system responded by triggering an inflammation response.
Dr. Palm explains that the evolution of individual bacterial species within our guts over time can result in increased abilities of that species to resist immune detection and clearance, stay within our internal organs, and drive chronic inflammatory responses.
According to Medical News Today, the ongoing evolution within our microbiomes over the course of each individual's lifetime may provide a unique source of stochasticity in disease development.
This might explain why certain individuals may be able to live with a potentially pathogenic species in their gut for years to decades without becoming ill. It also provides a new mechanistic explanation for the connection between aging and diverse illnesses that are aided and aided by the microbiome. Dr. Noah Palm
Not all bacteria are the same.
Since these findings are still in the early stages of research, Dr. Palm believes they are unable to yet draw any prescriptive recommendations for diagnosing or treating increased IP in patients.
He explained that specific modifications in bacterial behavior resulting from inside-host evolution might be to blame for leaky gut in a subset of patients. Thus, strategies that block the evolution of immune evasion or that target translocating microbes might be used to prevent or treat several maladies associated with bacterial translocation.
Dr. Ashkan Farhadi, a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, agreed that this investigation is not appropriate at this time for diagnosis or treatment. However, he told MNT that it is a hypothesis-generating study that furthers our understanding of the problem, which may eventually help us prevent these conditions from beginning with.
[I]magine, hypothetically, were testing someone and saying, "You have a bad bacteria." They may get into your system every time you stress out, but your body does not recognize them, and they wait for a moment to strike." Dr. Ashkan Farhadi
Dr. Farhadi also stressed the importance of this study in demonstrating that not all bacteria are the same.
He explained that his knowledge of germs in the gut is so rudimentary. It's just like you look up with a telescope from the moon [at] the earth and think, okay, there are people there. But they aren't the same.
Our understanding of bacteria is like that. Now we know there is a particular [bacteria] that does a specific thing that might help us prevent some specific illness. And thats a very important first step, Dr. Farhadi said.