Probiotics are incredibly popular. Everybody’s taking a pill, eating yogurt, or going to more extreme ends to encourage “good” gut bacteria. But probiotics might be a lot more useful than just keeping you regular and helping us make Jamie Lee Curtis jokes. Scientists have taught the little buggers to find and kill a dangerous bacterium, and more custom bug-killing probiotics might be on the way.
The probiotic in question is E. coli Nissle 1917. E.coli gets a bad rap, but most strains of it are harmless, and Nissle 1917 is a highly useful one — you can find it in your local store under the name Mutaflor. In the past, scientists at Cornell University had taught it to hunt down and eat P. aeruginosa. It’s a nasty customer that creates “biofilms,” sticky mats of bugs that your immune system and conventional medicine are hard pressed to break up.
So Nissle was engineered to find those mats, rip them apart, and eat the tasty micro-organisms inside, or at least did so in mice and roundworms. Even better, the probiotic was better at preventing an infection in the first place compared to stopping one in progress, meaning a quick dose of this after surgery might help stop infections before they happen. That’s important, as while the risk of dying from a postoperative infection is low, it spikes among certain groups. Of course, we don’t know if it works on humans just yet; that study still needs to be done. But it might not be that long before a little probiotic dose keeps you not just regular, but alive.
(via The Verge)