Good bacteria mitigate side effects of cancer

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. That’s according to a new study by American scientists. They saw that certain bacteria protect our gut flora from the adverse effects of chemotherapy.

Scientific research from Northwestern University in Illinois shows that gut bacteria specifically help protect other good bacteria from cancer treatments.

They attenuate the harmful effects of chemotherapy on our microbiome by processing the drugs. These are promising results that could potentially lead to the development of new dietary supplements, probiotics, or treatments that will improve the quality of life of cancer patients.

This is particularly important in children, as previous research has shown that changes in the microbiome caused by chemotherapy are linked to health problems later in life, such as obesity, asthma, and diabetes.

The American scientists were inspired by bioremediation, a process in which microbes are used to clean polluted environments. Only here, the pollution did not take place in soils or groundwater but in our guts.

The cleaning team consisted of Raoultella planticola, an intestinal bacterium that naturally occurs in low quantities in our intestines and can break down the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. And that turned out to protect our intestines as well.

The scientists saw a higher survival rate in sensitive strains of bacteria, such as Clostridium innocuum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Certain bacteria are thus able to make the drugs less toxic to the rest of the gut.

While the research points to a promising new avenue for protecting cancer patients, the researchers do caution that practical applications are not yet for the foreseeable future.

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