New research shows that probiotics can ward off peanut allergies, adding to the long list of health benefits associated with the organisms.
Researchers at the University of Chicago conducted the study on mice models. They examined the effects of bacteria used to treat allergies present in mice that were raised in an entirely sterile environment. The mice did not have gut bacteria and had a strong immune response to peanut. The researchers aimed to find out whether adding different kinds of bacteria to the digestive tract could help the mice.
Of all the bacteria that the team used in their experiment, the researchers found only the Clostridia group of bacteria to be effective in preventing an allergic reaction. The bacteria also reversed the mice's sensitivity to peanuts. Researchers explained that the bacteria caused the cells in the outer layers of the intestines to create high levels of interleukin-22. This particular molecule reduces the permeability of the intestines, meaning fewer allergens can reach the bloodstream, where they cause allergic reactions.
"We've seen a generational change in the prevalence of food allergies," said senior study author Cathryn Nagler, an immunologist at the University of Chicago, reports Live Science. "When I was in elementary school, my brothers and I ate peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day. Now, my children's classrooms are peanut-free. It's estimated that, in the U.S., there are now two children in every classroom with potentially life-threatening allergic responses to food."
"The first step is for an allergen to gain access to the blood stream, the presence of Clostridia prevents the allergens getting into the bloodstream," Dr. Nagler said. "Clostridia are known to be closely linked to the intestinal lining, they are spore forming which makes them tricky to work with, but down the road they would be a candidate to put in a to pill as they are highly stable."
Researchers said they are now planning to find a drug with similar properties as the bacteria.
The study, "Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization," was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.