Probiotics now used to treat irritable bowel syndrome have been found to effectively kill gut bacterial infections caused by Salmonella.
The findings, by University of California-Irvine researchers, suggest probiotics might one day be used to target foodborne illnesses that affect millions of people annually.
Manuela Raffatellu, assistant professor of microbiology & molecular genetics, and colleagues found the strain called Nissle 1917 blocks the growth and spread of Salmonella by gobbling up iron, an essential nutrient Salmonella needs to thrive. As a result, Salmonella counts in the gut plummet when Nissle is administered during an infection.
"Although we focused on Salmonella, our findings suggest that this approach can be effective against other gut bacterial pathogens that need iron to grow," said Raffatellu, whose findings were published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. "By understanding how these 'bad bugs' get nutrients, we can further study methods to eradicate them."
Salmonella is typically acquired through tainted food and can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Most people recover without treatment within days of infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 42,000 cases are reported annually in the U.S., but because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections is probably closer to 1 million to 4 million per year.
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