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An interesting study about exposure to household cleaning products (regular cleaning products compared to eco-friendly products) and the gut microbiomes of young children was recently published. Canadian researchers found that the use of household cleaning disinfectants in the home was associated with changes in gut microbial communities in infants (more of some bacteria and less of others) - when compared to infants living in homes where eco-friendly cleaners were used. These changes occurred in a dose dependent manner (the more they were used, the bigger the changes).

Also interesting was that the more disinfectants (which are antibacterial) were used in a home, the more Lachnospiraceae was found in the infant's gut microbiota in infancy (age 3 to 4 months), and this was associated with a higher body mass of the child at 1 and 3 years, and increased odds of being overweight or obese at age 3. Use of eco-friendly products was associated with decreased odds of the child being overweight or obese at age 3. What was heavy use of household disinfectants? Daily or weekly. Just keep in mind that these are associations - not a definite cause and effect. But animal studies find similar results. And I wonder - what is frequent use of disinfectants doing to adult gut microbiomes? From Medical Xpress:

Household cleaning products may contribute to kids' overweight by altering their gut microbiota

Commonly used household cleaners could be making children overweight by altering their gut microbiota, suggests a Canadian study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). The study analyzed the gut flora of 757 infants from the general population at age 3-4 months and weight at ages 1 and 3 years, looking at exposure to disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products used in the home. 

...continue reading "What Are Household Disinfectants Doing To Our Gut Microbes?"

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Summer is a wonderful season here in the northeast US, but there is a dark side - ticks. Tick numbers, types of ticks, and diseases (including Lyme disease) that people are getting from tick bites are all increasing. Nothing seems to stop their spread and their increasing numbers. But what if a fungus that kills ticks is the answer? The fungus is Metarhizium anisopliae, which occurs naturally in forest soils. It is sold as Met52 - a non-toxic to humans and pets product that anyone can now purchase.

The product is now being tested in a multiyear study (led by R. Ostfeld & F. Keesing) in 24 neighborhoods with a high incidence of Lyme disease in New York state. Studies show that ticks die within 3 to 7 days after being exposed to Met52 (a spray made up of the fungal spores and water). Personally, I am very excited by this natural product and hope that it works well. The researchers are hoping for a 90% reduction of ticks (or more!) in areas and yards where it is applied! That is better control than the insecticides typically used. The researchers feel that if this works well, then municipalities or neighborhoods could do it on a large scale for tick control.

I first read about the study in this July 2018 article by M. Molteni in Wired: WE HAVE NO IDEA HOW BAD THE US TICK PROBLEM IS

Together, these efforts are helping to change the way people and government agencies think about ticks as a public health threat. ...The trouble is that scientists also know very little about which interventions actually reduce those risks. “There’s no shortage of products to control ticks,” says Ostfeld. “But it’s never been demonstrated that they do a good enough job, deployed in the right places, to prevent any cases of tick-borne disease.” In a double-blind trial published in 2016, CDC researchers treated some yards with insecticides and others with a placebo. The treated yards knocked back tick numbers by 63 percent, but families living in the treated homes were still just as likely to be diagnosed with Lyme.

Ostfeld and his wife and research partner Felicia Keesing are in the middle of a four-year study to evaluate the efficacy of two tick-control methods in their home territory of Dutchess County, an area with one of the country’s highest rates of Lyme disease. It’s a private-public partnership between their academic institutions, the CDC, and the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, which provided a $5 million grant.  ...continue reading "Is A Tick Killing Fungus The Answer to Tick Control?"

Chronic low-grade inflammation in humans is drawing a lot of interest because it is linked to so many diseases (diabetes, cancer, etc). Key ways to lower this inflammation appear to be losing weight (if overweight), exercising, not smoking, and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds (thus lots of fiber). Research also shows that the type of diet a person generally eats has an effect on the composition of gut microbes (you want to feed beneficial microbes!). But which is more important for health and lowering inflammation - whole grains or fruits and vegetables or neither?

A recent study attempted to answer this question. They put 49 overweight or obese individuals, who typically ate low amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (less than 1 serving per day), into 1 of the following 3 groups for 6 weeks: 1) Whole grains (WG), 2) Fruits and vegetables (FV), and 3) a Control group (who ate refined grains). All persons were given 3 servings per day of "treatment" foods to eat at home, but the rest of their Western style diets stayed the same. The individuals did not all consume the same foods, but rather consumed their choice of foods from their group's food category.

The researchers collected blood and stool samples (both at the beginning of the study and after 6 weeks) to measure inflammation levels, and types of microbes and fatty acids in the gut. Inflammatory markers that they measured were: tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), lipopolysaccharide binding protein (LBP), and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP).

The researchers found an increase in microbial diversity in the FV group (perhaps due to the new variety of fibers in the fruits and vegetables), but otherwise there were no significant changes in gut microbiome composition among the groups. [Note: but each group had only some dietary changes, not drastic changes]

The researchers found that whole grains and fruits and vegetables lowered markers of inflammation - but each treatment (FV or WG) lowered different types of inflammation markers. And note that for the fruit/vegetable group - the 3 servings per day, was still below government recommendations of 5 servings per day for adults. And the rest of their diet was the same Western diet that they normally ate. So the whole grains or fruits and vegetables were not major dietary changes. And yet there were positive changes - lowering of inflammation.

So the final answer is that it is best for your health  (and gut microbes) to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and also whole grains. And they didn't even mention legumes, nuts, and seeds - all high fiber foods with lots of micronutrients, and known to be good for beneficial gut microbes. So yes, eat them also. What was a serving in this study? 1 serving = 1 cup fruits or vegetables, and 1 serving = 1 oz of whole or refined grains...continue reading "Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains Lower Inflammation"

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People are excited over the possibility that herpes viruses could be behind Alzheimer's disease and whether it could be prevented with the use of antiviral medication. This is because currently there is no way to prevent or treat the disease.The June 22, 218 post discussed the amazing recently published study done in Taiwan. The study looked at more than 33,000 individuals and found that those with herpes simplex infections (HSV) had a 2.56-fold increased risk of developing dementia. But individuals that were treated with anti-herpetic (antiviral) medications for a newly diagnosed HSV outbreak had a decreased risk of dementia - that the risk dropped back down "to baseline". [Note that whether it was the person's initial infection or reactivation of an existing infection is unclear.]

The researchers' conclusion was that the antiviral medication reduced the risk of senile dementia (Alzheimer’s disease) by keeping the herpes infection in check. Now studies need to be done to see if this association holds. But the amazing results, along with studies that also implicate other herpes viruses, led to a commentary being published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease about the tantalizing possibility of a simple treatment or prevention - perhaps even a vaccine. This commentary highlights the excitement among some (many?) researchers. The authors of the commentary mention that currently "over 130 studies, using a variety of approaches, support a major role for HSV1 in Alzheimer's Disease". Even if it's not all cases of Alzheimer's disease, but only a portion - it would still be incredible.

From Science Daily: Herpes linked to Alzheimer's: Antivirals may help

A new commentary by scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh on a study by Taiwanese epidemiologists supports the viability of a potential way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. When the Taiwanese authors looked at subjects who suffered severe herpes infection and who were treated aggressively with antiviral drugs, the relative risk of dementia was reduced by a factor of 10. 
...continue reading "Excitement Builds Over Possible Herpes Virus Link to Alzheimer’s disease"

The last few days a number of articles appeared in the news about the official US government's opposition to a WHO (World Health Organization)  resolution supporting breastfeeding. Huh? Apparently this was because the US government decided that supporting formula companies was more important than the health of mothers and babies. The US government went so far as to threaten other countries if they supported the resolution.

Medical and scientific studies have clearly established that breast milk is best for a baby for numerous short and long-term health benefits. There are also health benefits to the mother from breastfeeding (e.g. lower incidence of breast and ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes). Of course there are many women who can't or won't breastfeed for various reasons (including they can't because of lack of maternity leave or support at their workplace) and their babies will drink infant formula and do well. But .... in general women should be encouraged to breastfeed because of the numerous health benefits, and they shouldn't just hear nonsense (e.g.lies)  from infant formula companies. Below are links to articles explaining what happened in the US vs the WHO and other countries in the breastfeeding controversy, and some reasons why breast milk  is better than formula.

But what these news articles didn't mention is another really important health benefit: mothers transmit hundreds of species of microbes to their babies in breast milk. Yes, hundreds of microbial species which help "seed" the infant's microbiome (microbial communities). [Some research posts: more than 700 species of bacteria in breast milk, and gut microbiota development,]

From Quartz:  All the scientific support for breastfeeding that the US apparently didn’t read  ...continue reading "Why Are Formula Company Profits More Important Than the Health of Babies?"

Over the last few decades, the mainstream theory of Alzheimer's disease (amyloid deposits build up in the brain) and medical treatments (drugs) just hasn't led anywhere. Nothing has worked to stop Alzheimer's disease. But evidence is building for an alternative view - that microbes in the brain are leading to the development of Alzheimer's disease (here and here). Now new compelling evidence from studies implicates several strains of herpes virus in Alzheimer's disease. At least one study has suggested herpes zoster, others the common herpes simplex, while other studies suggest other herpes strains. Which means that treatment could perhaps involve anti-viral drugs! (Wouldn't it be great if that works???)

In one study researchers found that human herpes virus DNA and RNA were more abundant in the brains of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and that "abundance correlated with clinical dementia scores" - meaning the more of it, the sicker the person was. And the two viruses they found to be most strongly associated with Alzheimer's, HHV-6A and HHV-7, were not as abundant in the brains of those with other neurodegenerative disorders.

The article mentions another recently published study from Taiwan. This amazing study looked at more than 33,000 individuals in Taiwan and found that patients with herpes simplex infections (HSV) may have a 2.56-fold increased risk of developing dementia. And they found that the use of anti-herpetic (antiviral) medications in the treatment of HSV infections was associated with a decreased risk of dementia - that the risk dropped back down "to baseline". The conclusion was that the antiviral medication reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by keeping the herpes infection in check. Yes! Finally, a way foreward in this horrible disease.

Scroll down and read what one group of researchers says: "Our model right now is that it’s not just a single microbe, but a disturbance in the brain microbiome that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.”

From A. Azvolinsky's article at The Scientist: Herpes Viruses Implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease

The brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients have an abnormal build up of amyloid-β proteins and tau tangles, which, according to many researchers, drives the ultimately fatal cognitive disease. This theory is being amended to a newer one, which posits that microbes may trigger Alzheimer’s pathology ...continue reading "Herpes Viruses and Alzheimer’s Disease"

Does it matter what blood type (A, O, B, AB) we have when dealing with microbes that can make us sick? Apparently it does for certain illnesses.

New research suggests that people with blood type O  and B can handle a strain of Escherichia coli referred to as "enterotoxigenic E. coli" better than those with blood type A. This bacteria is associated with traveler's diarrhea and diarrhea in developing countries, with especially severe effects among young children. It turns out that those with blood type A get sicker (more severe diarrhea) and sooner, than those with blood type O and B. Antibiotics successfully treats the diarrhea.

By the way, other research also finds a link with certain diseases and blood types (e.g. diabetes, malaria, and cholera). From Medical Xpress:

Blood type affects severity of diarrhea caused by E. coli

A new study shows that a kind of E. coli most associated with "travelers' diarrhea" and children in underdeveloped areas of the world causes more severe disease in people with blood type A.

The bacteria release a protein that latches onto intestinal cells in people with blood type A, but not blood type O or B, according to a study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. A vaccine targeting that protein could potentially protect people with type A blood against the deadliest effects of enterotoxigenic E. coli (Escherichia coli) infection.  ...continue reading "Blood Type Affects Severity of Illness From E. Coli Strain"

Once again, a study finds that consumption of nuts is beneficial to health - this time by impacting the gut microbiome (community of microbes) in a beneficial way. This was a nicely done study -18 healthy adults randomly assigned first to either eating about a handful of walnuts daily (42 g) or zero nuts daily for 3 weeks, and then assigned to the other group for 3 weeks, with a "washout period" of 1 week in-between. Walnut consumption resulted in higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria (Faecalibacterium, Clostridium, Dialister, and Roseburia) which are butyrate producing (beneficial!), and lowering of proinflammatory secondary bile acids and LDL cholesterol (both beneficial).

As seen in this walnut study from the University of Illinois, adding walnuts to the diet has quick effects on the gut microbiome. Other studies find that diets rich in nuts (which are a source of dietary fiber and unsaturated fatty acids) are associated with a reduced risk of death from cancer and heart disease. Bottom line: eating some nuts daily feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut, and so has beneficial health effects. This walnut study had everyone eating about a handful of walnut halves a day (42 g, which is a little less than 1/2 cup walnut halves).

From Science Daily: Walnuts impact gut microbiome and improve health

Diets rich in nuts, such as walnuts, have been shown to play a role in heart health and in reducing colorectal cancer. According to a new study from the University of Illinois, the way walnuts impact the gut microbiome -- the collection of trillions of microbes or bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract -- may be behind some of those health benefits.  ...continue reading "Walnuts Feed Beneficial Gut Bacteria and Other Health Benefits"

People ask me: what's going on with research in the treatment of sinusitis with probiotics? Well, the answer is that things are moving along slowly - very slowly, but there are good signs. Earlier this year an interesting article by researcher Anders U. Cervin at the University of Queensland (Australia) was published that specifically talked about "topical probiotics" as a potential treatment for chronic sinusitis. By this he means that probiotics (beneficial bacteria) could be directly applied to the nasal passages in the nose, such as a nasal spray. And he discussed how the prevailing view nowadays, based on scientific evidence, is that in sinusitis there is an "imbalance of the sinus microbiome" - the community of microbes living in the sinuses. Yes!!!

Cervin mentioned all sorts of research showing beneficial effects of using different strains of probiotics for various illnesses, mentioned the Abreu et al study (which is the reason I focused on Lactobacillus sakei as a sinusitis treatment, and which works successfully for many people), but.... nowhere did he mention Lactobacillus sakei by name. What???

Cervin discusses how studies are needed to test nasal sprays for the treatment of sinusitis, and made a lot of good points. He looked at studies already done, wondered what bacterial strains might be beneficial, but obviously didn't read the Abreu et al study carefully to see that L. sakei might be a good candidate to test. And he didn't do an internet search to see what probiotics people are using already as a successful treatment for sinusitis (see post). He did mention that the only good trial using nasal spray probiotics in humans with sinusitis found no effect - because they tested the wrong Lactobacillus strains - they were honeybee strains [see post], and not ones found in humans.

Eh... So once again I'm heartened by the focus on the microbial community in sinusitis, and heartened that he said there it was time to get out of the laboratory and start testing probiotics as treatments on people. But I'm dismayed that the focus is so narrow that he's missing what is in front of him - what is already out there. He also missed that a "snot transplant" study is now going on in Europe, which is sure to have interesting results.

By the way, some of the questions the article raises are ones which, based on the experiences of myself and others over the past 5 years, we can already answer: living bacteria as a treatment are better than dead bacteria (using dead bacteria doesn't work), nasal treatments work but just swallowing a probiotic pill doesn't, Lactobacillus sakei works as a treatment for many, the L. sakei bacteria reduces inflammation in the nasal passages, the probiotic can be used in place of an antibiotic, and only treat when needed and not continuously (continuously treating can also result in an imbalance in the sinus microbiome). [See post The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis where these issues are discussed.] ...continue reading "Researcher Sees Potential for Sinusitis Nasal Probiotics"

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Study after study, and such influential researchers as Dr. Martin Blaser (at New York University) have warned about antibiotics having a negative effect on the human microbiome - that they kill off gut microbes. And all conclude that therefore antibiotics should be used carefully - only when needed. But there are other reasons to be cautious about antibiotics as a recent article warned. Some people who take the class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones develop a syndrome called fluoroquinolone-associated disability (FQAD) which causes crippling side-effects, including irreversible nerve damage. People who have fallen ill after taking fluoroquinolones call it being "floxed".

The FDA currently has "black box" warnings about fluoroquinolones - that they can cause tendon rupture or a risk of irreversible nerve damage in those taking the antibiotics. Black box warnings are placed inside a black box on drug labels and call attention to serious or life-threatening risks. Millions have taken these drugs, but some (the FDA considers it a rare event) develop the serious side-effects.

Many people (myself included) have taken fluoroquinolones, such as Levaquin, over the years for sinusitis treatment. Some have taken them multiple times. Most have not reported side-effects (including myself), but those who developed serious side-effects (floxed) are desperate for sinusitis treatments that don't involve taking antibiotics. Which is where alternative treatments using probiotics such as Lactobacillus sakei come in (yes, it works for sinusitis!). Excerpts from Nature (the international journal of science):

When Antibiotics Turn Toxic

In 2014, Miriam van Staveren went on holiday to the Canary Islands and caught an infection. Her ear and sinuses throbbed, so she went to see the resort doctor, who prescribed a six-day course of the popular antibiotic levofloxacin. Three weeks later, after she had returned home to Amsterdam, her Achilles tendons started to hurt, then her knees and shoulders. She developed shooting pains in her legs and feet, as well as fatigue and depression. “I got sicker and sicker,” she says. “I was in pain all day.” Previously an active tennis player and hiker, the 61-year-old physician could barely walk, and had to climb the stairs on all fours. Since then, she has seen a variety of medical specialists. Some dismissed her symptoms as psychosomatic. Others suggested diagnoses of fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Van Staveren is in no doubt, however. She’s convinced that the antibiotic poisoned her.

She’s not alone. Levofloxacin is one of a class of drugs called fluoroquinolones, some of the world’s most commonly prescribed antibiotics. In the United States in 2015, doctors doled out 32 million prescriptions for the drugs, making them the country’s fourth-most popular class of antibiotic. But for a small percentage of people, fluoroquinolones have developed a bad reputation. On websites and Facebook groups with names such as Floxie Hope and My Quin Story,thousands of people who have fallen ill after fluoroquinolone treatment gather to share experiences. Many of them describe a devastating and progressive condition, encompassing symptoms ranging from psychiatric and sensory disturbances to problems with muscles, tendons and nerves that continue after people have stopped taking the drugs. They call it being ‘floxed’.  ...continue reading "Some Antibiotics Can Have Crippling Side Effects"