Treat burn, trauma patients with probioticsInflammation, an over-reaction of the immune system when your body is injured or harmed by disease, has become a popular topic on this blog, as studies are showing how tightly it is linked to your gut health.

Low levels of chronic inflammation are signaled by reduced amounts and richness of gut bacteria, tying gut diversity to a boost in a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a recent Danish study.

A dramatic shift in gut bacteria is the subject of a new PLOS One study related to patients whose bodies produced large increases of Enterobacteriaceae, a “family” of bacteria which include harmful Salmonella and E. coli, after being severely burned.

Scientists from Loyola University Medical Center’s Burn Center compared fecal samples from four severely burned trauma patients, five to 17 days after their injuries occurred, with fecal samples from a control group of eight patients whose bodies experienced only minor burns.

Amounts of Enterobacteriaceae were miniscule (0.5 percent) among patients with only light burns. However, among patients with serious burns, Enterobacteriaceae accounted for 32 percent of their gut bacteria.

These imbalances in the gut microbiome may contribute to complications from infections like sepsis, that are linked to 75 percent of patient deaths caused by severe burns, says Dr. Mashkoor Choundry, senior author of the study.

In fact, Dr. Choundry is planning future studies to investigate the possibility that this over-production of harmful bacteria could lead to leaky gut.

Leaky gut is a serious health condition that occurs when unintended substances, ranging from undigested food and toxic waste products to bacteria and viruses, seep through the vulnerable intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream.

Injuries to the body like burn trauma can jumpstart a harmful cycle, according to study co-author Dr. Richard Kennedy. Your body’s immune system responds to trauma with inflammation, triggering an imbalance of gut bacteria, which spirals into a more powerful inflammatory response and greater disparities in the gut microbiome.

Burn victims may also benefit from taking probiotics, a safe, drug-free treatment that can help an injured gut microbiome recover. Future studies will determine if probiotics can reduce the possibility of infectious problems like sepsis, says Dr. Choundry in a press release.

One day, doctors could use probiotics to treat patients suffering other kinds of trauma (injuries to brain) too.