Sunday 21 August 2011

Battling Clostridia difficile

Perhaps second only to MRSA, the bacteria Clostridia difficile (C.difficile) is on various 'wanted' posters in many hospitals around the world. I say 'wanted' but in this instance do not refer to a welcome invitation, rather the $10,000 reward variety of wanted. Wanted dead or alive as Bon Jovi once asked? Dead in this case.

Why? Well because C.difficile whilst being present in a proportion of the population, and not seemingly involved in anything untoward in many cases, has the propensity to do some pretty nasty things to a person under the right conditions - usually associated with antibiotic use. One of the most widely presented links is with something called pseudomembranous colitis. I am interested in C.difficile and the colitis angle because of the link to gastrointestinal hyperpermeability (the leaky gut) which has had its speculations for some cases of autism and other conditions.

There is some hope on the horizon for tackling C.difficile as represented by this article* by Savidge and colleagues published in Nature Medicine. Don't be too put off by the title and abstract because the BBC website carries quite a good layman version of the findings. The long and short of it is that the compound S-nitrosoglutathione (GSNO), a nitric oxide donor, may be a key component in inhibiting the ability of the bacteria to enter cells and exert its damaging effect. Tests on mice (sorry!) suggested that GSNO helped survival rates in cases of clostridial infection.

The authors are cautious in their findings and application to treating C.difficile infection. Lots more research is required before this compound goes from peer-reviewed paper to practice not least to make sure additional supplementation is actually safe. I am however intrigued about this compound and its potential effects including its proposed effects on things like nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) which might show more than a passing connection to some cases of autism spectrum conditions. More than that though is the potential to treat C.difficile, which at the moment might (and I do stress 'might') show some connection to autism and some intervention measures previously described.

Your days might be numbered C.difficile infection...

* Savidge TC. et al. Host S-nitrosylation inhibits clostridial small molecule-activated glucosylating toxins. Nature Medicine. August 2011.

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