Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Common medications can accumulate in gut bacteria, a new study has found, altering bacterial function and potentially reducing the effectiveness of the drug. These interactions—seen for a variety of medications, such as depression, diabetes, and asthma drugs—could help researchers to better understand individual differences in drug effectiveness and side-effects, according to the study published in Nature.
It is known that bacteria can chemically modify some drugs, a process known as biotransformation. This study is the first to show that certain species of gut bacteria accumulate human drugs.
This could change the effectiveness of the drug both directly, as the accumulation could reduce the availability of the drug to the body, and indirectly, as altered bacterial function and composition could be linked to side effects.
The human gut naturally contains communities of hundreds of different species of bacteria, which are important in health and disease, called the gut microbiome. The composition of bacterial species varies significantly between people and has previously been shown to be associated with a wide range of conditions including obesity, immune response, and mental health.
In this study, the researchers grew 25 common gut bacteria and studied how they interacted with 15 drugs that are taken orally. The drugs were chosen to represent a range of different types of common drugs, including antidepressant medications, which are known to affect individuals dissimilarly and cause side effects such as gut problems and weight gain.
The researchers tested how each of the 15 drugs interacted with the selected bacterial strains—a total of 375 bacteria-drug tests.
They found 70 interactions between the bacteria and the drugs studied—of which 29 had not been previously reported.
While earlier research has shown bacteria can chemically modify drugs, when the scientists studied these interactions further, they found that for 17 of the 29 new interactions, the drug accumulated within the bacteria without being modified.