Scientists are working to reduce these complications with an “engineered live biotherapeutic product” that protects the human gut from antibiotics. Researchers from MIT and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have modified a strain of Lactococcus lactis (a bacteria involved in cheese production) to disrupt the part of antibiotic drugs that pose a risk to gut health. Their treatment uses a genetically modified strain of bacteria to avoid transmitting this disturbance to the producer cells responsible for the effectiveness of the antibiotics.
According to a study published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, biotherapy has proven its worth so far. After administering both the microbial treatment and ampicillin to a group of mice, the researchers found that the treatment minimized intestinal disruption. without negatively impacting ampicillin function. Biotherapy also prevented the loss of resistance to colonization against Clostridioides difficile, the bacteria that often causes diarrhea and other digestive upsets during a course of antibiotics. A control group of mice that had not received the biotherapy experienced a loss of microbial diversity.
The researchers are now working on setting up a clinical study to prove the effectiveness of biotherapy in humans. While patients are often advised to take probiotics or eat fermented foods while on antibiotics, such measures are not always enough to prevent stomach pain or yeast infections. The bacteria found in yogurt and kimchi (as well as those found in probiotics, despite their large numbers) remain susceptible to antibiotics, which exist to cleanse the body of any potential infection. If approved for human use, the new biotherapeutic may allow patients to experience the benefits of antibiotics without any of the usual miserable side effects.