Could this parasite help us understand IBS better?

Could new research on a common gut bacteria lead to a better understanding of IBS?
Could new research on a common gut bacteria lead to a better understanding of IBS?

Research conducted by the University of Kent found that the way a common gut parasite behaves could offer better understanding of how intestinal diseases such as IBS develop, according to the official press release.

The original paper was published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.

A common gut microbe

The team, which included researchers from other universities, found that the microbe Blastocystis, which is commonly found in the guts of human and animals, can survive under conditions which were previously thought to be impossible, according to a report.

The Blastocystis microbe is always present in the stools of healthy human beings, but can sometimes cause an infection known as the Blastocystis hominis infection which causes nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and bloating. The reason why this specific microbe may cause infection is still fairly under-researched.

Oxygen doesn't affect this microbe

The crux of this new research is that the Blastocystis microbe does not die when oxygen levels rise, as previously believed, according to research leaders, Dr Anasatios Tsaousis and Dr Campbell Gourlay.

According to them, the amount of concentrated oxygen in a healthy gut is extremely low, hence the absence of symptoms such as bloating, indigestion and abdominal cramps. In someone with an intestinal condition such as IBS, however, oxygen levels rise because of gut imbalance. This causes bloating and an array of other unpleasant symptoms.

The Blastocystis microbe is not affected by the rise in oxygen levels in the gut and is therefore not an anaerobic microbe (a microbe that will possibly die from oxygen exposure). In this case, the study results show that a specific enzyme helps the microbe to survive the higher oxygen levels in an unhealthy gut.

Understanding IBS better

Lead author Dr Tsaousis, Senior Lecturer in Molecular and Evolutionary Parasitology, said in the official press release: 'The research has shown, contrary to previous thinking, that this microbe can deal with oxygen.

This research could possibly provide more insight into the mechanism of IBS, leading to better treatments in the future.

Image credit: iStock

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