Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain and alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation. There are many causes of IBS including abnormal gut motility, hypersensitivity of gastrointestinal tract, disturbed neural functions of the brain-gut axis, abnormal autonomic nervous system, low-grade inflammation, altered gut bacteria, etc.
Many researches are going on to find a connection between the inflammation caused by gut bacteria and IBS. Now, a study conducted by researchers from the University of Gothenburg have discovered a close relation between Brachyspira, a type of gut bacteria, and a diarrhea-causing form of IBS. The study shows that this bacteria hides itself under the mucus layers of the intestine protecting it from other gut bacteria.
The study was led by Karolina Sjöberg Jabbar, a Ph.D. holder from the University of Gothenburg, and Magnus Simrén, senior professor of gastroenterology at the University of Gothenburg. In the study, the scientists were unable to detect Brachyspira by routine method of stool sample analysis which was used to detect other types of gut bacteria. They had to take biopsies from the intestine to detect the bacterial proteins of Brachyspira which was present deep in the mucus layers of the intestine.
“I was hugely surprised when we kept discovering Brachyspira in more and more IBS patients, but not in healthy adults,” Karolina Sjöberg Jabbar explained.
Results are encouraging
Around the world, 5 to 10% of the adult population is suffering from IBS. The mild form of IBS doesn’t cause many problems but the severe form can adversely affect the quality of life.”Many questions are still unanswered, but we might have found a new treatment method for those suffering from IBS. ,” Karolina Sjöberg Jabbar said.
Details of the study
The study analyzed the tissue obtained from the biopsies of the colon of 62 patients with IBS and 31 healthy participants. Thirty-one percent (19/62) of IBS patients had Brachyspira in their gut, but the bacterium was absent in the samples from the healthy individuals. This implied that Brachyspira was a common bacteria in IBS patients.
“Brachyspira was found in up-to thirty-one percent of IBS patients. Larger studies are necessary to confirm it. We’re also going to investigate how Brachyspira causes symptoms, if any, in IBS. This could open new doors for the treatment of IBS, “Professor Magnus Simrén explained.
Possible treatment modalities
In a pilot study, when trying to treat Brachyspira with antibiotics, the researchers were not able to eradicate it because it was hiding inside the intestinal goblet cells, which secrete mucus. “This appears to be a new way for bacteria to evade antibiotics, which could hopefully enhance our understanding of other infections that are difficult to treat,” Sjöberg Jabbar explained.
However, if the connection between Brachyspira and IBS symptoms can be confirmed in larger studies, other antibiotic regimens, as well as probiotics (friendly bacteria), may be used in the treatment of IBS very soon.
Since the inflammation caused by Brachyspira resembled an allergic reaction, anti-allergy medications or dietary modification may be also used as viable options to treat IBS. The scientists are also keen to investigate this in future studies.
According to professor Gunnar C Hansson, who is a leading scientist in research on the protective mucus layer of the intestines, “This is a good example which shows that free, independent basic research, when done in collaboration with healthcare, can discover great findings that are beneficial for the patients, although the primary purpose was not to look for Brachyspira”. The study is published in the journal Gut.