A new super protective probiotic for IBD


This study is looking at the role of bacteria in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.


At the end of this project we shall be in a position to generate a ‘super-protective’ strain of Bifidobacteria and prepare it for test in patients with IBD.

Dr Lindsay J Hall, Norwich Medical School
University of East Anglia

What is this research looking at?

There has always been a lot of interest into whether bacteria can be used as a way of treating IBD. In particular, there has been a lot of research into probiotics – these are a mixture of live ‘friendly’ (beneficial) bacteria which can be taken by mouth. The aim of taking probiotics is to increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the bowel.

Unfortunately, clinical trials of probiotic therapy in active IBD have been disappointing so far and not shown any benefit. However, the researchers in this study have already discovered a strain of bacteria living in the bowel called Bifidobacterium breve which has potential therapeutic benefits. Importantly, IBD patients have less of this beneficial group of bacteria when compared to healthy people. The researchers aim to identify all the components of this bacterium which could have therapeutic benefit so that a "super-protective" probiotic can be made.

They have already found that this strain of bacteria prevents damage to the lining of the bowel caused by inflammation. In people without IBD, the cells lining the bowel are constantly being shed into the faeces and being replaced by new cells. This shedding of cells creates gaps in the lining of the gut – however, it has recently been discovered that special molecules are redistributed in order to 'plug' the gaps left by the shedding cell – thus keeping the bowel barrier sealed. In people with IBD, cells are being shed much quicker during inflammation – which creates gaps in the layer too big to be plugged by the molecules. This allows bacteria and toxins to enter into the body. It has been found that patients who shed a large number of cells are more likely to have flare-ups than those with low levels of shedding – this suggests that cell shedding is important in IBD.

Dr. Hall and Professor Watson from the University of East Anglia have already shown that Bifidobacteria reduces this cell shedding and reduces inflammation in a laboratory model of IBD. In this project, they are working with Professor Van Sinderen, who is a world authority on Bifidobacteria. The three researchers are going to study a large range of these bacterial strains in order to identify the bacterial components that prevent the cell shedding, and then they will test the most promising components in laboratory models of IBD. By the end of the project the team hope to have generated a ‘super-protective’ strain of Bifidobacteria and prepare it for test in patients with IBD.

What do researchers think this could this mean for people with IBD?

The researchers hope that they will find a new probiotic which will help control inflammation in people with IBD. If they are successful, they hope it will be a new cost effective therapy for mild IBD without any significant adverse reactions.

Who is leading the research: Dr Lindsay JHall, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia

Our Funding: £119,018 (£68k funded by donation from Rick Parfitt Jr Foundation)

Duration: 24 months

Official title of the application: Identification of the structural and molecular components of Bifidobacteria that have epithelial protective effects: Towards development of effective bacterial therapy for IBD

Tags: Bacteria / Probiotics