Targeting gut bugs could revolutionize future drugs, say researcher

February 1, 2008

Revolutionary new ways to tackle certain diseases could be provided by creating drugs which change the bugs in people's guts, according to a Perspective article published today in the journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.

Trillions of bugs known as gut microbes live symbiotically in the human gut. They play a key role in many of the processes that take place inside the body. Different people have different types of gut microbes living inside them and abnormalities in some types have recently been linked to diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

The authors of the Perspective argue that targeting gut microbes with new drug therapies, rather than concentrating on the mechanisms in the human body which are the current focus of most drug development programmes, could provide an array of uncharted possibilities for fighting disease. Much research is still needed to untangle the precise role played by each different type of bug.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, one of the authors of the Perspective from the Department of Biomolecular Medicine at Imperial College London, explained: "It's only recently that we've discovered the huge influence that bugs in the gut have on people's health. The exciting thing about this is that it should be easier to create drugs that can change the bugs than it is to re-engineer human cells and signalling pathways inside the body. Also, if we're not interfering with the body's pathways, these drugs should have less toxic side-effects."

Research has already shown that the makeup of an individual's gut microbes is affected by their diet and other environmental factors. A recent study led by scientists from Imperial College showed that it is possible to alter the makeup of bugs in a mouse's gut, affecting their metabolism, using probiotics.

"We already know that external factors such as altering your diet can change the makeup of the bugs in your gut, so these kinds of therapies will mean a more holistic approach to medicine, looking not just at pharmaceutical treatments but also at lifestyle and nutrition. I think that in ten years' time it will be normal for scientists to take gut bugs into consideration when they are creating new medicines," added Professor Nicholson.

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: 10 to 1: Bugs win in NASA study

Related Stories

10 to 1: Bugs win in NASA study

September 22, 2015

Bugs are winning out, and that's a good thing according to NASA's Human Research Program. As part of NASA's One-Year Mission, researchers are studying how microbes living on astronauts' skin, inside their bodies and on the ...

Viruses join fight against harmful bacteria

September 23, 2015

In the hunt for new ways to kill harmful bacteria, scientists have turned to a natural predator: viruses that infect bacteria. By tweaking the genomes of these viruses, known as bacteriophages, researchers hope to customize ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.