Originally published May 14 2009
New Study: Probiotic Strain Boosts Immune Response to Flu Virus
by S. L. Baker, features writer
(NaturalNews) A new study just published in the journal Postgraduate Medicine has good news about a way to help fight a potential flu pandemic, naturally. Researchers found that a specific strain of probiotics, which are beneficial microorganisms similar to the "friendly" bacteria found naturally in the body's digestive system, increases the body's immune response to the flu virus -- specifically, to influenza A. And the currently much hyped and much feared so-called swine flu, also known as H1N1, is a variant of influenza A.
Although many mainstream medical doctors as well as natural health practitioners have long recognized that probiotics can often help people with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, gas, and bloating, the idea that taking probiotics could help healthy people stay that way has been controversial. But the new study could change that notion. It shows that taking probiotics regularly can boost the immune system in a specific way which helps the body give influenza A the boot. The probiotics strain, which has the scientific tongue-twister name of Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, PTA-6086, was found to cause significant increases in T-cell production of TNF-alpha, a key immune system activity marker, when health adults were exposed to influenza.
Researcher Mira Baron, MD, measured changes in blood TNF-alpha levels in 10 healthy adult volunteers before and after they took doses of the probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans (which is marketed under the trade name GanedenBC30 and found in various dietary supplements) daily and then were exposed to an influenza A virus. Results showed a huge 1709 percent increase in TNF-alpha levels upon viral challenge after the research participants had taken the probiotic for about a month. Dr. Baron noted in her study that the initial, dramatic increase in the body's production of TNF-alpha in response to viral exposure shows a heightened immunological response aimed at protecting against infection.
The study did not evaluate an immune response to the specific swine flu virus, H1N1, currently causing much worry. However, there's certainly reason to think that Bacillus coagulans could boost the body's natural defenses to fight a variety of flu viruses, including swine flu. "These results demonstrate the ability of GanedenBC30 to boost the immune system of healthy adults against viruses that cause some of the most common human illnesses," Dr. Baron said in a statement to the press. "The study helps support the long-suspected belief about the beneficial effects of GanedenBC30 on the immune system and adds to the emerging body of evidence that probiotics can benefit healthy people as well as those with specific health issues."
Dr. Gary Huffnagle, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan, and author of the book The Probiotics Revolution reviewed Dr. Baron's findings and concluded the research adds to the growing body of scientific data that show probiotics boost the immune function of healthy adults to defend against infection and lessen the symptoms of disease. "I think it is a wise move to include the consumption of probiotics, such as Sustenex (a supplement that contains Bacillus coagulans), along with good diet, frequent hand washing and other recommendations by the CDC in the battle against flu. While more research is needed to demonstrate whether this translates into reduced hospitalization and/or deaths, it's a healthy, low-cost, proactive thing that people can do that has no risks associated with it."
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