Bacteria in probiotics can evolve in your gut and turn nasty, study shows (The Independent)
Summary: This article talks about a study performed at the University of Washington in Missouri where a probiotic evolved to attack the protective coating of the intestine in the mice they tested. Unhealthy mice with low gut microbial diversity were more likely to develop an evolved strain of the E. coli Nissle bacteria that was used in the probiotic they studied. According to the researchers, their findings have implications for the development of safer probiotics in the future.
Connections: This article is very relevant to the human microbiome section that we covered in class. It involves the gut microbiome and the ways it can be more or less healthy, and more or less diverse. I think the way microbes can change and evolve right under our noses is fascinating!
Critical analysis: This was certainly an interesting piece and the writing style flowed well. However, this study is only one of many and might mislead readers to think that all probiotics can “turn bad.’ It could also be confusing to the regular reader, because the wording of the article makes it seem like probiotics are drugs that can change inside your body. Of course we all know that probiotics are made up of living bacterial cells that are supposed to help enhance the diversity of your gut microbiome. It was also unclear whether the E. coli strain always evolved in a negative direction or if it was simply more prone to evolve in an unhealthy gut microbiome (toward good or bad characteristics, we don’t know). Overall, this was a well-written article, but I think the writer conveyed what he wanted the readers to believe and not necessarily the actual truth of the study.
Question: What were the exact parameters of the evolution of E. coli Nissle observed in this study?
2 Comments for “A2: Microbes in the News (#2)”
Interesting article. What I thought was particularly interesting was this strain of bacteria was isolated all the way back in world war I after the diarrhea outbreak. That was a very long time ago when medicine was still somewhat in the stone age. I like the idea that they still had enough knowledge in microbiology to get a sample from the man who was missed by the bug (and look at what it’s lead to!) One thing I will say is that this article left me wanting more, like it was missing some vital information, research, multiple cases/studies, how the study might transfer to a human host, and the implications of these findings past the use of alleviating the symptoms of IBS. This could be that this article was meant to be consumed by the general public and filling their head with too much complicated information would deter readers and in turn reduce the interest in the study.
This article is actually very interesting! When you think about it, a lot of people don’t know about the potential negative side effects to probiotics. It’s really neat to see another side of them. I know that an over abundance of probiotics can have negative implications, but I never thought that they could actually cause you to develop other bacterial strains!