Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bacterial blockade

Research explains how gut microbes can inactivate cardiac drugs

For decades, doctors have understood that microbes in the human gut can influence how certain drugs work in the body — by either activating or inactivating specific compounds — but questions have remained about exactly how the process works.

Harvard scientists are now beginning to provide those answers.

In a paper published July 19 in Science, Peter Turnbaugh, a Bauer Fellow at the Center for Systems Biology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), and Henry Haiser, a postdoctoral fellow, identify a pair of genes that appear to be responsible for allowing a specific strain of bacteria to break down a widely prescribed cardiac drug into an inactive compound, as well as a possible way to turn the process off.

“The traditional view of microbes in the gut relates to how they influence the digestion of our diet,” Turnbaugh said. “But we also know that there are over 40 different drugs that can be influenced by gut microbes. What’s really interesting is that although this has been known for decades, we still don’t really understand which microbes are involved or how they might be processing these compounds.”

To answer those questions, Turnbaugh and his colleagues chose to focus on digoxin, one of the oldest known cardiac glycosides. The medicine is typically prescribed to treat heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia.

“It’s one of the few drugs that, if you look in a pharmacology textbook, it will say that it’s inactivated by gut microbes,” Turnbaugh said. “John Lindenbaum’s group at Columbia showed that in the 1980s. They found that a single bacterial species, Eggerthella lenta, was responsible.”

Researchers in the earlier study also tried — but failed — to show that testing bacterial samples from a person’s gut could be used to predict whether the drug might be inactivated.

“To some degree the research was stalled there for a number of years, and the findings in our paper help to explain why,” Turnbaugh said. “Originally, it was hoped that we would simply be able to measure the amount of E. lenta in a person’s gut and predict whether the drug would be inactivated, but it’s more complicated than that.”

Beginning with lab-grown samples of E. lenta — some cultured in the presence of digoxin, some in its absence — Turnbaugh and Haiser tested to see if certain genes were activated by the presence of the drug.

“We identified two genes that were expressed at very low levels in the absence of the drug, but when you add the drug to the cultures … they come on really strong,” Turnbaugh said. “What’s encouraging about these two genes is that they both express what are called cytochromes — enzymes that are likely capable of converting digoxin to its inactive form.”

Though he warned that more genetic testing is needed before the results are definitive, Turnbaugh said other experiments support these initial findings.

The researchers found only a single strain of E. lenta — the only one that contained the two genes they had earlier identified — was capable of inactivating digoxin. In tests using human samples, bacterial communities that were able to inactivate the drug also showed high levels of these genes

“We were able to confirm that simply looking for the presence of E. lenta is not enough to predict which microbial communities inactivate digoxin,” Turnbaugh said. “We found detectable E. lenta colonization in all the human fecal samples we analyzed. But by testing the abundance of the identified genes we were able to reliably predict whether or not a given microbial community could metabolize the drug.”

In addition to being able to predict whether a given microbial community would inactivate the drug, Turnbaugh and colleagues identified a possible way to halt the process.

“It was previously shown that in the lab E. lenta grows on the amino acid arginine and that as you supply more and more arginine, you inhibit digoxin inactivation,” he said.

Tests conducted with mice showed that animals fed a diet high in protein, and thereby arginine, had higher levels of the drug in their blood than mice fed a zero-protein diet.

“We think that this could potentially be a way to tune microbial drug metabolism in the gut,” Turnbaugh said. “Our findings really emphasize the need to see if we can predict or prevent microbial drug inactivation in cardiac patients. If successful, it may be possible someday to recommend a certain diet, or to co-administer the drug with an inhibitor like arginine, ensuring a more reliable dosage.”

Peter Reuell | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders
24.10.2016 | Baylor College of Medicine

nachricht New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground
24.10.2016 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>