Microbiome Bites March 27th: Using the Gut Microbiome to Treat and Prevent Asthma
1. Feeding the Gut Microbiome to Treat Asthma
It’s estimated that 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with 250,000 deaths annually attributable to the disease. Now research presented at the annual meeting of the Thoracic Society for Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) suggests that altering the gut microbiome can be used to treat asthma symptoms.
In the groundbreaking study, asthmatic participants received a daily supplement of the prebiotic fiber inulin. Inulin can’t be digested by your body, but instead acts as a food for the ‘good bacteria” in your gut. Changes in asthma control, lung function and gut microbiota were then monitored.
The inulin supplement altered the gut microbiomes of the participants, which in-turn improved their asthma symptoms and reduced airway inflammation.
The best results were observed in patients whose asthma was poorly controlled to begin with.
2. How Exposure to Microbes Protects Against Asthma
As noted above, asthma is a large and growing problem. One of the main reasons for this is the rise in the excessive level of hygiene in our environment. This reasoning is well supported by a number of research studies showing that exposure to “non-hygienic” environments (with lots of bacteria) plays a protective role against the development of allergies including asthma.
In a study published in the journal Immunity researchers at the University of Liege show that exposure to bacterial DNA drastically increases the numbers of lung immune cells and makes them immunosuppressive.
If these specific cells were injected into different mice they were protected from developing allergic asthma in response to dust mites.
Similarly, when these cells were injected into the lungs of asthmatic mice the mouse was cured and lost all asthma symptoms!
This research represents a new way of using microbiome components to treat asthma in humans.