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Intestine & digestion

Intestinal infections, this is how the bacteria act

January 7, 2019

Understanding how bacteria act in the most common intestinal infections may be the key to finding the most appropriate treatment and avoiding abuse of antibiotics. Researchers at the Australian National University of Canberra have discovered the mechanisms underlying these problems, understanding that intestinal bacteria secrete toxins that attack the immune system. We talked about it with Dr. Federica Furfaro, gastroenterologist at Humanitas.


From bacteria the toxins that attack the immune system

Vomiting and diarrhea caused by contaminated foods are often caused by Bacillus Cereus, a common bacterium capable of secreting toxins that attack our immune system. This organism is found in vegetables, meat, fish, rice and pasta and multiplies if foods are stored at the wrong temperatures.

Scholars of the Australian National University of Canberra, who reported their results on Nature Microbiology, discovered how this bacterium interacts with the immune system: “We knew that some toxins attacked the cells – commented the authors of the work -: all this triggering an immune reaction. Now we also know how this happens. The toxin binds directly to the cell and the perforates it to kill it. The immune system responds to the infection and this causes a reaction. Since we now know how the bacterium and its toxins operate, we can fight their effect and find the system to use the defenses of the immune system to our advantage.

Advice for those with weak defenses

In particular, research can help patients with a compromised immune system. Prevention, however, always remains the best cure. It is important to wash your hands well and prepare food according to safety guidelines. It is also important to cook or heat food properly. Heating leftovers properly will destroy most bacteria and their toxins.

Finally, the indiscriminate use of antibiotics must be avoided, which must always be started only after adequate medical prescription; the indiscriminate use of antibiotics favors the development of a multi-resistance to bacteria, increasingly frequent in Western countries.


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