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Even Slight Rise in One Gut Microbe Might Keep You Out of the Hospital
  • Posted March 25, 2024

Even Slight Rise in One Gut Microbe Might Keep You Out of the Hospital

Even a slight rise in a specific type of beneficial gut bacteria can help people ward off serious infections, a new study reports.

For every 10% increase in butyrate-producing bacteria in a patient's gut, their risk of hospitalization for infection drops between 14% and 25%, researchers are scheduled to report at a major European medical meeting next month.

Butyrate is a fatty acid produced by "good"gut bacteria as it breaks down and ferments fiber.

Butyrate pays an important role in digestive system health by providing about 70% of the energy needed by colon cells, according to the Cleveland Clinic. 

This new study shows that butyrate also appears to support a person's immune system, helping fight off infections, researchers said.

They decided to pursue this inquiry after noting that levels of butyrate-producing gut bacteria are commonly depleted in patients hospitalized for severe infections.

Butyrate also appears to have protective effects for several intestinal diseases outside infections, researchers said in background notes.

To study its potential protective effects against illness, researchers analyzed gut microbes from nearly 10,700 people in The Netherlands and Finland. Of those, a little more than 600 died from infections, mainly pneumonia.

The analysis revealed that for every 10% increase in butyrate-producing bacteria, there was a 25% lower risk of hospitalization for infection among the Dutch participants and a 14% lower risk for the Finnish folks.

"Gut microbiome composition, specifically colonization with butyrate-producing bacteria, is associated with protection against hospitalization for infectious diseases in the general population across two independent European cohorts,"concluded the researchers, who were led by Dr. Robert Kullberg of the Amsterdam University Medical Center in The Netherlands.

"Further studies should investigate whether modulation of the microbiome can reduce the risk of severe infections,"the researchers added.

Unfortunately, butyrate-producing bacteria cannot tolerate oxygen, which makes it difficult to get these valuable bacteria into the gut, researchers noted.

This findings are to be presented during a scheduled meeting April 27-30 of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Barcelona, Spain. 

Findings presentation at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more about butyrate.

SOURCE: European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, news release, March 22, 2024

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