Reflections on “Antivirals for the Gut? Study Points To Potential New Gut (and Brain) Treatment”

A reader shipped me a link to Antivirals for the Gut? Study Points To Potential New Gut (and Brain) Treatment and asked for comments.

After reading, my first concern is about some naivety about biophages. Biophages are uber specialists in general, often they will address only a very small selection of bacteria. Just like bacteria, there is communications between them.

” Sorek’s team was looking for evidence that a bacterium called Bacillus subtilis might alert other bacteria to phages. The researchers knew that bacteria speak to their brethren through secreting and sensing an array of chemicals. This phenomenon, called quorum sensing, allows the bacteria to adjust behaviours according to the numbers of other bacteria around. For instance, bacteria use quorum sensing to decide whether to divide or when to launch an infection.  Instead, the team found, to its surprise, that a viral invader of Bacillus bacteria — a phage called phi3T — makes a chemical that influences the behaviour of other viruses. …

Sorek’s team found more than 100 different arbitrium(name of this class of chemicals)-like systems, most of them in the genomes of other Bacillus viruses. “Phages broadcast in different frequencies. They speak in different languages and they can hear only the language that they speak,” he adds. “

Do you speak virus? Phages caught sending chemical messages“[2017].

So conceptually, this sounds nice … a magic silver bullet! The problem is every phage is a different caliber so finding the right gun to shoot it becomes a challenged.

In theory: We need to identify which of the 3000+ bacteria each person has that are associated with the condition. Each person with the same condition will have different taxa involved. Then we need to find the appropriate matching phages for each. Each bacteria will likely need a different phage. In the 2017 study cited above, they found 100’s of phages for bacillus genus. We have years, if not decades, that will need researching.

The article cites Firmicutes being high in ME/CFS and links to the study. I suspect that brain fog has hit the author. I read the opposite

A highly significant separation could be achieved between Norwegian controls and Norwegian patients: patients presented increased proportions of Lactonifactor and Alistipes, as well as a decrease in several Firmicutes populations.

High-throughput 16S rRNA Gene Sequencing Reveals Alterations of Intestinal Microbiota in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients [2013]

Hoping over to my library of studies we find those below. Many of the low items are co-morbid with ME/CFS. (I excluded the above study because results were different for the two sets of ME/CFS patients used)

  1. Parkinson’s Disease reported from 1 studies to be High and Low
  2. Allergies reported from 1 studies to be High
  3. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (Gerd) including Barrett’s esophagus reported from 1 studies to be High
  4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease reported from 1 studies to be High
  5. Metabolic Syndrome reported from 1 studies to be High
  6. Sjögren syndrome reported from 1 studies to be High
  7. Type 1 Diabetes reported from 1 studies to be High
  8. Type 2 Diabetes reported from 1 studies to be High
  9. Ulcerative colitis reported from 1 studies to be High
  10. Acne reported from 1 studies to be Low
  11. ADHD reported from 1 studies to be Low
  12. Autism reported from 1 studies to be Low
  13. Celiac Disease reported from 1 studies to be Low
  14. Chronic Kidney Disease reported from 1 studies to be Low
  15. Crohn’s Disease reported from 3 studies to be Low
  16. Depression reported from 1 studies to be Low
  17. Inflammatory Bowel Disease reported from 1 studies to be Low
  18. Irritable Bowel Syndrome reported from 1 studies to be Low
  19. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis reported from 1 studies to be Low
  20. Multiple Sclerosis reported from 1 studies to be Low
  21. neuropsychiatric disorders (PANDAS, PANS) reported from 1 studies to be Low
  22. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) reported from 1 studies to be Low
  23. Stress / post-traumatic stress disorder reported from 1 studies to be Low
  24. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus reported from 1 studies to be Low

The findings suggested to the authors that antibacterials like minocycline and probiotics might be helpful not just in returning the gut to health, but also in reducing the neuroinflammation present in Gulf war Illness and similar disorders.

What is excluded is that success with minocycline and other tetracyclines with GWI and ME/CFS has been known for a while. For example Garth Nicolson, Continuing Research into Gulf War Illness 2001; Philippe Bottero, Co-Infections, 1987; C.L. Jadin, Common Clinical and Biological Windows on CFS and Rickettsial Diseases , 2000

In 2017, Solve ME funded a gut virome study, and a fecal transplant study is underway in Norway.

There is no mention of the massive research being done in Australia — so massive and successful that “Australians are running out of shit” (unbelievable and could not resist!) [News] In The GI microbiome and its role in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A summary of bacteriotherapy[2011] found ” Results: 35/60 patients who underwent initial bacteriotherapy responded to treatment. 10/15 patients who failed this course were offered a secondary transcolonoscopic infusion followed by a rectal infusion or an oral course of cultured bacteria. Of these 7/10 responded, giving a total of 42/60 (70%) patients who responded to treatment. “

Bottom Line

I often see the same old concepts being recycled for more funded investigations into these “new” concepts. Often it seems that the researchers are in their own little niche speciality and have not read (beyond a glance) the massive body of literature and studies on ME/CFS.

After some 20+ years in the ME/CFS world and having read everything that I could find multiple times…. I tend towards “Folks, put it together and get on with treating people!” The reality is that there is massive inertia in medical practice, my classic example is that many MDs believed ulcers were caused by stress for over 30 years after it was discovered to be treatable by antibiotics. MDs preached to their patients — “The ulcer is because YOU are stressed, I can’t help with that”…”What!!! Antibiotics, that is not standard of care — sorry, I will not be reckless!”