Since the development and wide use of penicillin during World War II, and a long time afterward, antibiotics were considered the Holy Grail of modern medicine.
That was true until our bodies became exposed too often to antibiotics and anti-microbial substances in the foods and soaps we use, cancelling out any benefits, crippling our immune systems and creating more serious diseases and conditions in their wake.
Researchers at the University of Chicago may have discovered a missing link on white blood cells that tie our immune system to higher amounts of good bacteria, according to a study appearing in the journal Immunity.
In tests on mice, scientists learned intestinal immune cells — type 3 innate lymphoid cells (ILC3s) — were crippled in responding to bacterial infections when lacking a single, binding ID2 protein.
Without this protein, ILC3 cells were unable to produce IL-22 molecules that spur other intestinal cells to create antimicrobial peptides, which protect our bodies from infections.
Researchers confirmed these results after transplanting ILC3 cells with or without the ID2 protein into germ-free mice. Animals not receiving the ID2-enriched immune cells were unable to fight off infections when exposed to bad bacteria, while those given protein-enriched cells resisted them.
“Given the rapid rise of harmful bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, it is paramount that scientists find methods of limiting harmful bacterial infections without the use of antibiotics,” says Dr. Yang-Xin Fu, senior author of the study in a press release.
“For future patients who are infected with harmful bacteria, it might be beneficial to promote the development of good gut microbiota to indirectly kill harmful bacteria, instead of using antibiotics.”
Back to penicillin, Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered the wonder drug in 1928 and was one of three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for its development 17 years later.
During his acceptance speech 70 years ago, Dr. Fleming warned people that overuse of penicillin to fight disease might be linked to the very same bacterial resistance problems we face today.
However, there are very natural and safe ways to maintain the balance of good bacteria in your gut that antibiotics deplete, with the help of probiotics.
A rule of thumb about taking probiotics: Waiting about two hours after taking an antibiotic to take a probiotic will lessen the risk of the drug diminishing the billions of live, beneficial bacteria that protect your health.