A healthy gut can even beat cholera

One bacterium in the gut’s microbiome – its universe of bacteria – deactivates the cholera bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, and stops it from spreading to the intestines.

The bacterium, Blautia obeum, produces an enzyme that degrades salts in bile and interferes with the signalling system that triggers the cholera bacteria into action.

Researchers from the University of California at Riverside discovered that the levels of Blautia obeum in the gut determined the virulence of cholera in villagers in Bangladesh or whether they contracted it at all, even if they had drunk the same contaminated water.

The researchers are investigating the environmental and dietary factors that can increase the amount of obeum in the gut.

They are also exploring how a healthier gut could combat the Covid-19 virus. Lead researcher Ansel Hsiao said the university is investigating how the virus changes the gut microbiome. “One day we may understand whether and how the microbiome affects Covid-19 and makes people resistant to other illnesses we don’t currently have treatments for,” he said.

Cholera is a water-borne bacterium that can cause an extreme form of watery diarrhea, leading to life-threatening dehydration. There are up to 4 million infections a year, causing 143,000 deaths globally.

(Source: Cell 2020; 181: 1533)