Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Saccharomyces boulardii - Nescio quid dicas

Science is literally 'littered' with words and phrases in Latin. With a rudimentary knowledge of Latin (and Greek) I am sure that much of the 'fog' around Science would lift in an instant for many people. The title of this post says two things: saccharomyces boulardii which I will come to shortly, and the words 'I don't know what you are talking about' (I hope).

I have wanted to talk about saccharomyces boulardii for a while now for several reasons. Not only is it one of the coolest names for anything in Science, but this relatively modest yeast seems to have some surprising properties which might just tie into quite a few things I have blogged about previously.

S. boulardii (to those in the know!) is a handy little yeast which has been applied to a few conditions most of which have some connection to the gut or gastrointestinal problems. Diarrhoea (diarrhea), whether caused by things like certain Clostridia species or following the use of anti-microbials, has been a target of S. boulardii.  The evidence for effect, measured by randomised-controlled blinded trials, in these areas is actually quite impressive. There is also some suggestion that s.boulardii might be quite effective in managing certain types of inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis and might have a beneficial effect on certain types of gut bacteria outside of Clostridia.

The discerning reader of this blog can perhaps see where I am going with this in relation to autism and the GI co-morbidity and gut bacteria issues present in some cases. Indeed, S. boulardii has been mentioned briefly in the research literature with regards to autism, combined with quite a few anecdotal reports scattered around the Internet about its possible usefulness (note, I am making no formal recommendations at this point).

How and why it works is another matter.

There is some speculation that S.boulardii might have more than one effect: anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, etc.  One quite interesting possibility, specifically in relation to autism and the findings of reduced dissacharidase activity reported recently, is the suggestion that S.boulardii might increase such enzyme activity (at least in the rat model).

So there you have it. Saccharomyces boulardii, a simple yeast seemingly punching well above its weight. A bit of a John McClane character. Dic mihi solum facta, domina (translation: 'just the facts ma'am')