Gut bacteria feed off dead cells to develop infections, study finds

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AUTHOR: Stef Bottinelli
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A reasearch study by the Ghent and the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville and the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York has discovered that bacteria in the gut uses dying cells as fuel in order to infect and attack the system.

When cells in our gut biome are dying, they send an alert to adjacent, healthy cells. The study has discovered that bacteria such as Salmonella and E.Coli pick up on these signals too and use them to feed off dead cells and attack our organism by causing infections. 

The researchers came to this conclusion whilst studying healthy mice. They noticed that dying cells in the rodents’ epithelium – the inner lining of the intestine – sent off a molecular alert in the gut which was detected by bacteria and used as fuel.

This discovery has led Ghent and the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the Sloan Kettering Institute to believe that ‘death-induced nutrient release’ (DINNR) could be the cause of a variety of illnesses such as food poisoning, Crohn’s Disease and inflammatory diseases. 

“These findings introduce a new layer to the complex host–pathogen interaction, in which death-induced nutrient release acts as a source of fuel for intestinal bacteria, with implications for gut inflammation and cytotoxic chemotherapy treatment.”, the research states. 

Brussels Times reports Professor Kodi Ravichandran of the VIB and UGent’s Centre for Inflammation Research as saying: “We’ve known for decades that cell death can indirectly influence bacterial infections by altering the body’s immune response. In our lab, we also study how dying cells communicate with their neighbours. In this study, we establish a link between both focus fields.”

In the last few years science and nutritional science have been studying the importance of gut health and its relation to overall health, including mental health.

More and more gut health-promoting products and functional foods are being launched on the market.  Prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics have become popular food supplements, as are foods and drinks that are naturally rich in them, such as kefir, yogurt, kimchi, Jerusalem artichoke and kombucha. 

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