Is It Possible to Use Bacteria to Prevent the Flu?

Preventing a viral infection through the use of bacteria sounds more like science fiction than science fact. But, according to the research, the idea of getting bacteria to help our immune system in the fight against viruses may not only be possible, but likely.

In the elusive search for a cure for the flu, scientists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor set their sights on probiotics and found that, indeed, the beneficial bacteria (and some yeasts) may have anti-viral properties against flu viruses. A new study published in the online medical journal PLoS One, researchers found that manipulating bacteria in the nose, mouth and throat can affect our immunity to flu viruses. Because this type of study is still in the infancy stage, it is not yet clear how we’ll be able to apply the research, but perhaps nasal sprays that include beneficial bacteria will be developed.

Most of us don’t give the severity of flu viruses much consideration until we get a nasty respiratory infection but according to the World Health Organization (WHO) up to 650,000 people die every year from the flu. And, of course, there are frequently complications such as pneumonia, which although recorded as deaths due to pneumonia, may have originated with the flu. So, finding affordable solutions that have few, if any, side-effects is a public health priority.

The PLoS One study isn’t the only one that suggests bacteria may hold the key to flu prevention or treatment. A growing body of research suggests that manipulating our microbiome may give us protection against viruses like the flu.

Scientists refer to the microbiome as the communities of microorganisms that inhabit your skin, mouth, gut and other parts of your body. To date, the gut has been the main focus of the microbiome research, for good reason: what happens in your gut plays a significant role in determining the health of your whole body. That’s because the gut plays a critical role in the health of your brain, joints, respiratory system, immune system, skin health and much more.  In fact, there are more microbes in your digestive tract than there are cells in your entire body.

The PLoS One study explored the effects of altering the respiratory microbiome, but other studies have found that even internal use of probiotics in the digestive tract may help us in our battle against harmful viruses. Although some of the research is still preliminary, considering the safety and effectiveness that probiotics are demonstrating it would be remiss not to consider probiotics as potential allies in our effort to protect ourselves from flu viruses.

Research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that probiotic supplements reduced the duration and incidence of the flu among rugby players from New Zealand. The test group was small but the study yielded impressive results regarding the use of probiotics among those who were infected by the flu.

Other research confirms probiotics’ ability to prevent respiratory and ear infections and to aid their healing. According to research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, scientists discovered that probiotics compete with harmful disease-causing microbes for nutrients, space and even the ability to attach to their human hosts to infect them. They found that the probiotics thrived at the expense of the infectious microbes, causing the harmful ones to die off and, in the process, preventing and treating upper respiratory infections.

While the research continues to assess the value of probiotics in the prevention and treatment of flu viruses, I won’t be waiting to learn what scientists uncover. Instead, I plan to keep supplementing with probiotics and enjoying fermented foods on a daily basis to help keep my immune system strong.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at FoodHouseProject.com. She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, founder of Scentsational Wellness, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life. Follow her work.

 

30 comments

Clare O
Clare O'Beara13 days ago

flu is nasty so don't overdo it

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara13 days ago

boost your immune system and stay fit

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara13 days ago

th

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Christine Stewart

I take probiotics and black elder berry too.

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Thomas M
Thomas M14 days ago

tyfs

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Mike R
Mike R14 days ago

Thanks

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Lisa M
Lisa M14 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M14 days ago

Thanks.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD14 days ago

tyfs

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn14 days ago

Noted

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