Modulating the gut microbiome might seem like a tall task. With millions of different microbes constantly interchanging with one another, it may seem impossible to pick and choose which ones we want to keep inside of our guts. Promoting diversity and keeping the symbiotic flora in tact is the main focus on trying to keep a healthy microbiome. There may be a way to do just that…
I’d like to introduce you to Bacteriophages.
At first glance you might be terrified. They may remind you of flu or other viral diseases. Or maybe even a scene of War of the Worlds. That’s because they are in fact, viruses! But if you have the right ones, these guys aren’t trying to destroy you. They actually have our back.
What exactly is a bacteriophage (phage)?
Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria.
How does the bacteriophages work?
Bacteriophages influence the microbiome. In a method called “kill-the-winner” the bacteriophages reach a point where they control populations of specific bacteria. Keeping microbial populations in check, this will create homeostasis in the gut. Microbes come and go, but there is always a core set of microbes you want to have. These phages make sure they don’t become opportunistic.
What phages are good?
It all depends on what type of phage you have in your body. Just like with our microbial community we need to have the right amount and the right type in our body to promote good growth. This study actually showed which phages are missing in people with IBD and C. Diff. These markers maybe the new way we can test to see how well our gut microbiomes are.
According to this study:
We found 23 shared bacteriophages in more than one-half of 64 healthy individuals from around the world. These shared bacteriophages were found in a significantly smaller percentage of individuals with gastrointestinal/irritable bowel disease. A network analysis identified 44 bacteriophage groups of which 9 (20%) were shared in more than one-half of all 64 individuals. These results provide strong evidence of a healthy gut phageome (HGP) in humans. The bacteriophage community in the human gut is a mixture of three classes: a set of core bacteriophages shared among more than one-half of all people, a common set of bacteriophages found in 20-50% of individuals, and a set of bacteriophages that are either rarely shared or unique to a person. We propose that the core and common bacteriophage communities are globally distributed and comprise the HGP, which plays an important role in maintaining gut microbiome structure/function and thereby contributes significantly to human health.
Where can I test for my phages?
Currently there are no tests being down on the consumer level. If you are living in Mexico or Georgia there are possibilities for you to receive phage therapy. I think its a shame that we don’t have this type of alternative available in America. The beauty of phages are their ability to target specific strains of bacteria, where antibiotics will lie waste to all bacteria in its path.
We are just on the precipice of finding out more information on how we can use these phages to help heal those with IBD or C. Diff. More studies need and should be done.
Beyond our microbiome
Outside of the United States, phages have been used as alternatives to antibiotics for the past 90 years. So what gives, what can’t the States get behind this alternative? Due to the high cost of passing FDA regulations, it maybe near impossible to ever see phages enter into US medicine. But with the ever growing risk of antibiotic resistance, money might not be a factor the sake of our species.
Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria. They play an important role in controlling our microbiome (gut flora). This maybe the future way we help restore the flora.