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Want to prevent your children from having allergies or asthma? A recent study adds support to increasing evidence that growing up on a farm, or living among multiple pets in the first year of life is protective against developing allergies and asthma. This is because exposure to lots of animal and outdoor soil bacteria in early childhood is good for the developing immune system. The study, which was conducted by Finland's National Institute  of Health and Welfare, carried this line of work further and found that this type of beneficial farm microbial exposure could be duplicated in non-farm homes.

They found that children's risk of developing asthma decreased as the similarity of their home's bacteria became more similar to that of farm homes. The researchers analyzed living room dust from homes and found that certain types of outdoor soil microbes were beneficial for preventing asthma. They found higher levels of these bacteria (and archaea, another microbe) in homes where people wore their outdoor shoes in the house, as well as 3 or more children, and increased moisture in houses. The types of fungi found in the dust of farm and non-farm houses didn't seem to matter. The researchers mention that the same kind of protective (for asthma) results of soil microbes has also been shown in mice.

Additional thoughts reading this: The study results can be interpreted as playing and crawling outdoors is definitely beneficial to children's health, especially young children. Exposure to soil microbes! And, of course, having pets. But wearing outdoor shoes indoors is problematic in areas with high lawn and garden pesticide use (e.g. suburban NY and NJ!) because studies show the pesticides get tracked indoors. This same problem occurs in areas with high lead levels (around older homes) or other heavy metals.

From Science Daily: Farm-like indoor microbiota may protect children from asthma also in urban homes   ...continue reading "Outdoor Soil Microbes In the Home and Asthma"

New research is raising questions about the role of gut bacteria in how people react to medications and whether the medicines are effective, at least some medications such as L-dopa treatment for Parkinson's disease. Why do medicines work for some people and not others? Perhaps the gut microbes are playing a part by interacting with the medicines! The gut microbes may actually be breaking down medicines and preventing them from reaching their target.

Researchers from Harvard University and University of California found that the composition of the gut microbes has an effect on whether the medicine L-dopa is effective or becomes ineffective as a Parkinson's disease treatment. They found that some bacteria can inactivate the medicine. Definitely research that needs following up on. Also, which medications is this true for?

Excerpts from Science Daily: Gut microbes eat our medication    ...continue reading "Gut Bacteria Has An Effect On Some Medicines?"

Study after study is finding that having pets in early childhood or living on a farm with lots of exposure to animals is associated with a lower incidence of allergies. Pets with all their "germs" (bacteria and other microbes) appear to have beneficial effects on children's developing immune systems. One study from the Univ. of Gothenburg (in Sweden) actually found that the more pets a child lives with in the first year of life, the lower the incidence of later allergies in children. The results were dose-dependent - with each additional pet, the incidence of allergies is a little lower.

The numbers are amazing - allergies decreased from 49% in those with no pets to zero in those with five or more pets. The researchers suggest that there is  a “mini-farm” effect, with exposure to a number of cats and dogs protecting against all allergy development (animal, food, and pollen allergies). What an about face in medical views in a few decades! It used to be viewed that if you wanted to prevent allergies in children, then avoid pets such as dogs and cats. Hah!

From Medical Xpress: Pet-keeping in early life reduces the risk of allergy in a dose-dependent fashion

A team of researchers at the University of Gothenburg has found that when infants live with pets, they grow up to have fewer allergies and other diseases. In their paper published on the open access site PLOS ONE, the group describes their study of datasets that held information on children's health and whether they had lived with pets as infants, and what they found.  ...continue reading "Exposure to Pets in Infancy Reduces the Risk of Allergies"

Many, many people wind up taking numerous courses of antibiotics at some points in life. Think of recurrent sinus infections or urinary tract infections or other infections. Or some conditions (e.g. dental or skin conditions) are treated with really long courses of antibiotics  New research (from 36,429 women participating in the long-running Nurses' Health Study)  found that women who take antibiotics over a long period of time during middle-age (40 to 59 years old), but even more so in late adulthood (60 years and over), are at increased risk of heart attack or stroke within the next 8 years.

How increased a risk for cardiovascular diseas? 28% or higher risk (compared to those who didn't take antibiotics)! But looking at the actual numbers it means: Among women who take antibiotics for two months or more in late adulthood, six women per 1,000 would develop a cardiovascular disease, compared to three per 1,000 among women who had not taken antibiotics.

Eight years was the length of the study, so it is unknown if the increased risk persists longer. The authors give a number of possible reasons for these results, but think it might be because antibiotic use results in gut microbial alterations. And the longer the antibiotic use, the more persistent the gut microbiome (microbial community) alterations. Other research studies supports this link (antibiotic use - gut microbe disruptions - increased cardiovascular disease). Another reason to eat in as healthy a manner as possible to feed beneficial gut microbes: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.

From Medical Xpress: Antibiotic use linked to greater risk of heart attack and stroke in women

Women who take antibiotics over a long period of time are at increased risk of heart attack or stroke, according to research carried out in nearly 36,500 women. The study, published in the European Heart Journal today, found that women aged 60 or older who took antibiotics for two months or more had the greatest risk of cardiovascular disease, but long duration of antibiotic use was also associated with an increased risk if taken during middle age (aged 40-59). The researchers could find no increased risk from antibiotic use by younger adults aged between 20-39.  ...continue reading "Link Between Antibiotics, Heart Attacks, and Stroke Risk In Older Women"

Today's post expands on the problem of superbugs in hospital rooms. Superbugs are microbes that resist many antibiotics and drugs, and are called multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO) in the medical literature. According to the Centers for Disease Protection (CDC): Each year in the U.S. at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of antibiotic resistant infections. Multidrug-resistant microbes are a continuing problem in hospitals and nursing homes.

The last post was on the contamination of privacy curtains around beds in hospitals and nursing homes. A recently published study (by the same Univ. of Michigan Medical School researchers) goes further in looking at microbes in hospital rooms. They looked at 3 main multidrug resistant organisms: vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA),  and resistant gram-negative bacilli (RGNB). And yes, they found them in many rooms and on some patients' hands and nostrils.

In the study, a total of 399 patients (average age 60.8 years) were followed as they entered 2 hospitals in Michigan during 2017. Fourteen percent of patients were already colonized with an MDRO when sampled within 24 hours of admission to the hospital - with 10% already having an MDRO on their hands, 7.5% in their nostrils, and 3.5% on both hands and nostrils. Room surfaces were sampled within the first 24 hours of a patient arriving at the hospital room - twenty-nine percent of rooms harbored an MDRO on the surfaces sampled. Six percent of the patients acquired an MDRO on their hands during their hospital stay. Luckily there were no deaths during the study.  

These microbes are frequently shed by patients and staff, and then they contaminate surfaces for days - which means that other people (patients, visitors, and hospital staff) are at risk of getting (acquiring) these microbes when they touch these surfaces. Surfaces that patients and staff frequently touch are: bed control and bed rail, call button, television remote, bedside tray table top, phone, toilet seat, and bathroom door knob.

The researchers stated that their study shows that patient hands are an "important reservoir" of microbes and play a "crucial role in the transmission of pathogens in acute care hospitals". Thus there is a need for "patient hand hygiene protocols" - in other words, wash the hands frequently.

From Medical Xpress: 'Superbugs' found on many hospital patients' hands and what they touch most often

For decades, hospitals have worked to get doctors, nurses and others to wash their hands and prevent the spread of germs. But a new study suggests they may want to expand those efforts to their patients, too.  ...continue reading "Patients Both Spread and Acquire Multidrug Resistant Microbes In Hospitals"

A new study found that the privacy curtains around beds in hospitals and nursing homes may be contaminated with deadly bacteria, such as MRSA. The University of Michigan Medical School researchers found that about 22 percent of samples from privacy curtains tested positive for multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Unfortunately, these curtains (usually plastic or cotton) are rarely washed or replaced - perhaps every 6 months or when they are noticeably dirty. According to the researchers, other places with lots of bacteria in hospital and nursing home rooms are bedside table tops, toilet seats, bedrails, , and TV remote controls.

From Medical Xpress: Privacy curtains could be reservoir of deadly bacteria: study

Hard-to-clean privacy curtains in hospitals and nursing homes worldwide may be contaminated with deadly drug-resistant bugs, according to findings to be presented Saturday at an infectious diseases conference. More than a fifth of 1,500 samples taken from six post-acute care nursing facilities in the United States were laced with one or more dangerous bacteria, including the hospital bug MRSA, researchers found.  ...continue reading "Hospital and Nursing Home Privacy Curtains and Deadly Bacteria"

Two years ago a study was published showing good results in 18 children with autism who received fecal transplants. Fecal transplants involves giving stool (along with all the microbes in the stool) from a healthy donor to a recipient. After getting fecal transplants, the children (ages 7 to 16) had significant improvements in their gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. abdominal pain, indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation, and stools), autism related symptoms, and in their gut microbes.

But how did they do long-term? The short answer: great. In fact, the children continued to improve over the next 2 years. Most of their gut symptoms continued to improve, their autism symptoms continued to improve, and their gut microbes kept improving over time - with significant increases in bacterial diversity (considered good), and with more Bifidobacteria and Prevotella. A professional evaluator found an average 45% reduction in core autism symptoms (language, social interaction and behavior) at two years after the initial treatment (compared with before the original treatment).

It has long been known that many persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience chronic gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and research shows that children with ASD have distinctive gut microbiomes (as compared to neurotypical children). Researchers believe there is a link between the gut and brain (the gut-brain axis), so a therapeutic approach could be to "modify" the gut microbes. Which is what the researchers did - in a 10 week process they call Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT). First they gave antibiotics, then a bowel cleanse, a stomach-acid suppressant, a fecal transplant (FMT) followed by many days of low purified doses taken orally.

From Science Daily: Autism symptoms reduced nearly 50 percent two years after fecal transplant

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in every 59 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism, up from one in every 150 in 2000.  ...continue reading "Reductions In Autism Symptoms Two Years After Fecal Transplants"

Researchers have known for a while that human breast milk contains hundreds of species of bacteria that a baby ingests while feeding. This is good! The bacteria is seeding the baby's gut microbiome (microbial community). A recent study of breast milk from different continents found that breast milk from healthy mothers also contains species of fungi - which is the breast milk mycobiome. What was noteworthy was that some  types of fungi in breast milk were found among breast milk samples from all locations (a fungi "core group"), while other types of fungi varied among breast milk from the different locations and even how the baby was delivered (vaginal or C-section birth).

After analyzing the 80 samples of breast milk (20 from each country: Spain, Finland, South Africa, China) it was found that some fungi were the same in breast milk from the different locations: Malassezia, Davidiella, Sistotrema, and Penicillium, while others were different. Fungi from the genus Cryptococcus were higher in breast milk from women who delivered vaginally (as compared to those who had a C-section).  [Note: Genus ranks above species, but below family, and the written name is capitalized.]

This study confirms the importance of breast milk as a source of microbes (along with many nutrients and protective compounds) to the infant and infant gut. From Science Daily:

Breast milk microbiome contains yeast and fungi: Do these benefit the infant?  ...continue reading "It Is Normal For Fungi To Be In Breast Milk"

Many health professionals have warned for years that the antibacterial triclosan should be avoided. Triclosan is found in a large variety of personal and consumer products labeled "antibacterial" or "antimicrobial". Now a recent study gives another reason to avoid triclosan - it makes UTI (urinary tract infection) bacteria MORE resistant to antibiotics.

Scientists have been warning about triclosan (and related triclocarbon) for a while, and have asked that their use be restricted due to risks to human health, to wildlifeand its accumulation in water, land, wildlife, and humans. Not only do they persist in the environment, they are also a source of toxic and carcinogenic compounds including dioxins, chloroform, and chlorinated anilines. They are endocrine disruptors that bioaccumulate (build-up) in humans and wildlife. They are toxic to aquatic and other organisms, yet they are found in the majority of people and freshwater streams. In other words, the chemicals are all around us and in us!

More than 2000 personal and consumer products, as well as building materials, contain triclosan and triclocarban. For example, they are found in soaps, toothpastes, detergents, clothing, toys, carpets, plastics, kitchen items, and paints. According to the FDA, which is responsible for regulation of foods, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, and similar products, there is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are more effective than nonantibacterial soap and water.

What should one do? Read labels and avoid products containing triclosan and other antimicrobials, and products labeled anti-odor, antibacterial, anti-germ, or containing Microban. No, you don't need antibacterial or anti-odor socks or cutting boards! See earlier posts on this topic (herehere, and here).

From Science Daily: Chemical added to consumer products impairs response to antibiotic treatment

Grocery store aisles are stocked with products that promise to kill bacteria. People snap up those items to protect themselves from the germs that make them sick. However, new research from Washington University in St. Louis finds that a chemical that is supposed to kill bacteria is actually making them stronger and more capable of surviving antibiotic treatment.  ...continue reading "Avoid Using Products With the Antimicrobial Triclosan"

In the last few years a number of researchers have suggested that microbes may be triggering or somehow causing Alzheimer's disease. Various microbes have been suggested, and research is finding links with herpes viruses, fungi, other microbes, and gum disease (periodontal disease) microbes. Now another study proposes that the common bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis - which causes chronic periodontal disease, is linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers have suggested that during an initial infection, the "infectious agent" (viruses, etc.) reaches the central nervous system and brain, then stays there in latent form (inactive) for years. And then when the immune system declines with age (which is a normal part of aging) - the microbes (virus, fungi, etc.) become reactivated and cause inflammation and the chain of events leading to Alzheimer's disease.

Note that in the recent study implicating P. gingivalis - the Cortexyme, Inc. company is doing the research and they, of course, are developing a product - so beware of bias. Also, the research done so far is in the earliest stages. But...it is exciting to see if further research (from them and from others) supports some sort of microbe, or several types of microbes, behind the development of Alzheimer's disease. Will we find that there is an "infectious cause" of Alzheimer's disease ("infection-induced neuroinflammation")? Because this means that there is a way to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease - some sort of antimicrobial, antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal. Stay tuned for further research.... From Medical Xpress:

Bacterial pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis may contribute to Alzheimer's disease: Study

Cortexyme, Inc., a privately held, clinical-stage pharmaceutical company developing therapeutics to alter the course of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other degenerative disorders, today announced publication of a foundational paper supporting its approach in Science Advances. In the paper, an international team of researchers led by Cortexyme co-founders Stephen Dominy, M.D. and Casey Lynch detail the role of a common bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg), in driving Alzheimer's disease pathology, and demonstrate the potential for small molecule inhibitors to block the pathogen.  ...continue reading "Periodontal Disease Link to Alzheimer’s Disease?"