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Bacteria & Allergies

September 4, 2014

A bacterium with a notorious name could help prevent and treat food allergies.



Could microbes prevent food allergies? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Food allergies have become more common in recent decades, and peanut allergy leads the way. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Chicago researcher Cathryn Nagler reports that a type of Clostridium bacteria that lives in the intestine may prevent and even reverse the condition.

CATHRYN NAGLER (University of Chicago Medical Center):

And what we found is that they play an important role in regulating the barrier to food allergens getting into the bloodstream where they can cause sensitization.


She and her colleagues report that introducing Clostridia to peanut-sensitive mice reversed the sensitivity. Unlike Clostridium difficile—a species that causes illness—this variety of the bacteria is harmless and produces molecules that prevent food proteins from escaping from the gut into the bloodstream. She adds that Clostridia could also be a player in other food allergies and autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s disease. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.