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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??? There are already excellent L. sakei probiotics out there for sinusitis treatment such as Lacto Sinus.

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 Sinusitis Treatment Summary page). 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 Best Probiotic For Sinus Infections where these issues are discussed and the best L. sakei products.] ...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"

Once again a study found that a high fiber diet feeds beneficial gut microbes and causes changes in the gut microbe community (the microbiome). What's new in this study is that eating the high fiber diet had health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes - that it lowered their blood sugar levels (better blood glucose control), resulted in  greater weight loss, and better lipid levels. And that when these gut microbes were transplanted into mice - they had similar health effects (better regulation of blood sugar). Which showed it was the microbes that caused the beneficial effects.

What foods are high-fiber foods? Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans). [See Feeding Your Gut Microbes] From The Scientist:

High-Fiber Diet Shifts Gut Microbes, Lowering Blood Sugar in Diabetics

A diet high in fiber can reshape the gut microbiome, helping people with type 2 diabetes stay healthy. A study published yesterday (March 8) in Science found that when patients with the condition ate a high-fiber diet, they had an abundance of microbial species that helped to reduce blood sugar and regulate weight compared with cohorts who ate a less fiber-rich diet ...continue reading "High Fiber Diet Is Beneficial For Those With Type 2 Diabetes"

Just read about an international study that discussed how millions of bacteria and viruses circle the earth in the earth's atmosphere every day, and get deposited on land by rain and dust particles. Which could explain why similar viruses and bacteria are found in totally different environments in different parts of the world. The study measured what was deposited high in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, but one would expect microbes to be deposited everywhere, not just in high mountains. We are surrounded by microbes! (Another post on this topic.) From Astrobiology:

Most Viruses And Bacteria Fall From The Sky

An international research project led by the University of Granada has revealed for the first time that almost one billion viruses and more than twenty million bacteria circulate in the Earth's atmosphere and are deposited in high-mountain places every day. The research findings, published recently in the ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology (part of the Nature group) help to explain why genetically identical viruses have been found in such distant locations and diverse environments of the planet. The University of British Columbia (Canada) and San Diego State University (United States) also participated in the project.  ...continue reading "Viruses and Bacteria Circle the Earth and Fall In Rain and Dust"

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Recently I was asked about the human skin microbiome (skin microbial communities) and whether the things we do frequently (e.g. use soap and shampoo, go swimming in a pool) has an effect on our skin microbiome. As I've posted earlier, human skin microbes include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and  archaea. Most of these microbes are harmless or beneficial, but when the microbial communities are out of whack (dysbiosis), then there are diseases or skin disorders (such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema). The human skin acts as a physical barrier, a first line of defense, to pathogens (microbes that can cause disease). Studies have found that using soaps, lotions, make-up, our diet and lifestyle all have some effect on skin microbial communities. Even living with someone results in some microbial exchange. Spending more time outdoors, owning pets, and drinking less alcohol (or none) are all associated with higher levels of microbial skin diversity.

But then I came across a small study from 2016 (National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD) in Cell - Temporal Stability of the Human Skin Microbiome. The researchers found that skin microbial communities are "surprisingly stable over time" (the study lasted 2 years), even though the humans were typically exposed to things daily that could disrupt their skin microbial communities (other people, clothing, the environments). But some individuals had more stable communities than others, and stability varied from site to site (the feet had the least stable microbial communities). Also, they found that bacterial, fungal, and viral communities not only show a strong preference for inhabiting specific skin sites, but also serve as "microbial fingerprints" that are highly unique to individuals. They did point out that "immunosuppression, illness, or the occurrence of disease have been shown to cause major shifts in skin communities".

Then there is a recent 2018 review article - but behind a paywall even though the researchers worked for NIH, thus paid for with our tax dollars (!!).They also discussed all the microbes living on the skin, and how when the microbial communities are out of whack (dysbiosis), then there is disease (whether acne, or eczema, etc.). Microbes that are beneficial in healthy people can become pathogenic, e.g. when the person has a disease. It also pointed out that only with modern genetic sequencing methods (rather than old style "cultures") can one really see what makes up the skin microbial communities. And that using these methods we can compare the skin microbes of healthy persons with those with a disease. And yes, there then is also the possibility of finding protective, beneficial microorganisms which are in healthy persons, but absent or under-represented in those with a disease. Sounds  like probiotics for the skin! ...continue reading "Microbes of the Skin"