Can yogurt cure COVID-19 and Crohn’s disease?
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have identified molecules in kefir, a type of yogurt, that have the potential to combat pathogenic bacteria by blocking communication between cells.
This approach also holds promise for fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Yogurt is a fermented probiotic dairy drink made by inoculating milk with microorganism mixtures, particularly yeast and bacteria.
People have relied on the probiotics in yogurt for years to calm stomach troubles and balance the negative effects of antibiotics. Probiotics are also thought to boost immune system function.
This is the first time, however, that researchers have isolated molecules in yogurt that appear to mitigate cytokine storms, the extreme immune response that’s one of the main causes of death in COVID-19 patients.
The researchers began by observing that kefir-secreted molecules reduced the virulence of vibrio cholerae, which cause cholera. The kefir molecules interfered in the assembly of bacterial biofilms, which play a significant role in the disease’s progression.
The molecules’ applicability to COVID-19 came as a surprise. The yogurt molecules not only eliminated the cytokine storm, but restored balance to the immune system.
“These results are notable, since this is the first demonstration that virulence of human pathogenic bacteria can be mitigated by molecules secreted in probiotic milk products, such as yogurt or kefir,” said Prof. Raz Jelinek, vice president and dean for research and development at BGU.
“Our research illuminates for the first time a mechanism by which milk-fermented probiotics can protect against pathogenic infections and aid the immune system. Following promising results in animal models, we look forward to administering these drug candidates to patients who are experiencing a cytokine storm, due to COVID-19 infection, or people suffering from acute inflammatory bowel pathologies, such as Crohn’s disease.”
“In a reality where antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming an imminent threat, the novel molecules discovered by BGU scientists pave a completely new path for fighting bacterial infections by disrupting cell-to-cell communications in pathogenic bacteria,” said Josh Peleg, CEO of BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of BGU.
“Moreover, the dramatic anti-inflammatory activities of the molecules may open new avenues for therapeutics and scientifically proven probiotic food products,” he said.
BGN Technologies is setting up a biopharma company “for the further development and clinical examination” of the technology.
(Edited by Fern Siegel and David Martosko)
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