Bugs in the gut could help doctors develop individualised healthcare

04/13/05

The success of personalised healthcare hinges on a better understanding of how microbes in the gut interact with different medicines report scientists from Imperial College London and Astra Zeneca.

Personalised medicine aims to provide medical treatment tailored more precisely to the individual, maximising efficacy while reducing the risk of an adverse reaction.

According to an article published this month in Nature Reviews Microbiology the researchers believe that gut microbes, which influence both the biochemistry and immune system of the host, could play a key role in modulating how medicines can affect the body. As the community of microbes varies greatly between individuals this could have important implications for the development of personalised treatments, and for drug discovery.

The team have summarised the scientific evidence showing that gut microbes have a large number of interactions with the body, and that changes to their composition could have significant effects, both good and bad, on an individual. They believe the exact composition of these microbes in the gut may lead to variations in the effectiveness of drugs between individuals and populations.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, from Imperial College London, and an author of the paper comments: "The discovery that these gut microbes play such an important role means we could have made the first step towards providing patients with personalised, tailored healthcare and medical solutions.

"For example, in the future it may be possible for your doctor to provide you with a personalised treatment for virtually any illness through the analysis of a blood sample. Similarly, doctors could also spot potential illnesses before they become a problem and take preventative measures."

Professor Ian Wilson, from AstraZeneca, and an author of the paper adds: "This growing realisation that the gut microflora may have effects that cannot be predicted from the patients genome alone adds an extra layer of complexity to the way in which we carry out drug discovery. At the moment, when developing a new drug we take very little account of factors such as the microflora and this may need to change."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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