Chemotherapy can in many cases, be an effective treatment for cancer, but unfortunately, it also has some unpleasant side effects. Decreased blood levels, hair loss, and gastrointestinal problems are examples of these side effects.
Researchers from Northwestern University in the United States have discovered that bacteria that are already naturally occurring in the body can alleviate the side-effects of gut problems that comes with chemotherapy. In the gut, there are some bacterias that are good at breaking down toxins, the researchers found that those bacterias can help protect other valuable gut bacteria that are necessary in the body, from the strong chemotherapy drugs.
"Chemotherapy drugs do not differentiate between killing cancer cells and killing microbes. Microbes in your gut help digest your food and keep you healthy. Killing these microbes is especially harmful for children because there’s some evidence that disruption in the gut microbiome early in life can lead to potential health conditions later in life.” says Erica Hartmann, one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
The sensitive bacteria survived
The researchers performed tests in which they created simplified microbial communities with gastric bacteria. They then exposed the communities to chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. The bacteria communities included bacteria that were sensitive to doxorubicin, bacteria that were resistant and bacteria that could break down the drug.
The results showed that the sensitive bacteria survived to a much higher degree when there were bacteria around that could break down the doxorubicin. It thus seems that it would be possible to reduce the side effects in the stomach significantly by developing supplements that increase the amount of protective bacteria.
The researchers will now go ahead and see if it is possible to develop a treatment. It will take a while to see if such a treatment leads to a good enough effect on a real person. But if possible, it would provide a simple and effective protection for the microbe in the gut, for those who need chemotherapy.
Read the whole study here.
Image: Pixabay / Gerd Altman