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’Good’ bacteria helps ease pain of colitis


A mixture of bacteria developed in part by University of Alberta researchers has been proven highly effective in treating people suffering from ulcerative colitis.

The findings, published in the July, 2005 issue of American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that the majority of patients taking a probiotic mixture of 8 bacteria (VSL#3) for 6 weeks improved their ulcerative colitis. Probiotics are preparations of living microbial cells that, when ingested, are thought to positively influence the composition of microbes in the gut and improve the health of the intestine.

While "bad" bacteria have been flagged as potential culprits in the cause of inflammatory diseases of the bowel, in this case, the ingestion of supplemental "good" bacteria (probiotics) to the intestine proved beneficial in treating ulcerative colitis, said Dr. Richard Fedorak, a professor of gastroenterology at the University of Alberta. The joint study included researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy and the University of North Carolina.

In this open label clinical trial, 86 per cent of those treated with probiotic bacteria mixture VSL#3 experienced relief of their mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. The mixture of eight lactic acid bacterial species is believed to be effective by mechanisms that include (1) reducing the number of "bad" bacteria, (2) reducing the amount of inflammation (3) increasing the mucus layer in the gut, and (4) increasing the amount of anti-inflammatory molecules in the intestine.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine (colon) and causes acute bloody diarrhea, sever stomach pain, urgency, anemia and fatigue. In its most severe form, ulcerative colitis that does not respond to medical treatment will require surgical removal of the colon.

The VSL#3 was administered over a six-week period to 30 patients who ranged in age from 18 to 65. Remission of the colitis was achieved in 63 per cent of the patients, while another 23 per cent responded with improvement in their symptoms and with healing of the colon’s lining. There were no adverse effects to the medication.

The VSL#3 can be considered an important potential treatment for those patients who don’t respond to conventional therapy such as mesalamine or 5ASA, Dr. Fedorak said.

Bev Betkowski | EurekAlert!
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