6 Benefits of Bacteria In Medicine

For over a century, bacteria have been transformed from microbial foes into powerful allies in medicine. Harmless or beneficial species provide novel therapies for cancer, infection, allergies, and more. Researchers continue uncovering surprising ways to leverage bacteria as natural healers.

Benefits of Bacteria In Medicine

Here are few benefits of bacteria in medicine:

1.    Antibiotic Producers

The first medical application of bacteria was antibacterial. Soil microbes like Penicillium produce natural antibiotics that revolutionized medicine in the 1920s and 1930s.

Before penicillin and other antibiotics, death from bacterial infection was common. Now, everything from pneumonia to gonorrhea can be reliably cured.

Other life-saving antibiotics come from species like Streptomyces, which generates tetracycline and streptomycin. Mining beneficial bacteria generates medicine that saves millions of lives yearly.

2.    Bacteria as Vaccines

Weakened or inactivated disease-causing bacteria can prevent illness through vaccination. Prior to Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, some infections had no vaccines. Scientists now create vaccines from Salmonella, Pertussis, and other species to protect against typhoid fever, whooping cough, cholera, and more.

The oral typhoid vaccine uses a Salmonella Typhi strain modified to not cause illness, but still stimulate immunity against typhoid.

Weakened Pertussis bacteria prompt the body to produce antibodies that later defend against full-strength Pertussis. Turning bacteria into vaccines has radically improved public health.

3.    Cancer Killers

Certain bacteria show promise at targeting and destroying cancer cells. Clostridium novyi deprives tumors of oxygen, while Salmonella Typhimurium accumulates in cancerous tissues and provokes anti-tumor immunity. Modified or naturally-occurring bacteria can deliver anti-cancer drugs directly into malignant growths.

Other species release enzymes that break down tumors’ physical structure. Using bacteria as tiny treatment-delivery vehicles provides exciting potential against aggressive cancers. Ongoing research continues optimizing bacteria-based cancer therapies. 

4.    Allergy Relief

Some allergic reactions seem to occur when the immune system overreacts to harmless triggers due to faulty regulation. But bacteria may help correct this imbalance and provide allergy relief.

Studies show certain probiotic strains reduce eczema flares in infants by balancing immune responses. Other clinical trials found probiotic supplements decrease nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and wheezing from seasonal allergies. The proper microbes may train the body’s defenses not to overreact.

5.    Gut Microbiome Treatments

Nearly all disease involves changes to the community of bacteria in the gastrointestinal system. Manipulating the gut microbiome through antibiotics, probiotics, prebiotics and even fecal transplants can treat conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea.

Probiotics repopulate the gut with beneficial species to restore healthy function. Fecal transplants from healthy donors treat stubborn C. difficile diarrhea by rebooting the recipient’s microbiome. As medicine embraces the microbiome, such interventions will become more common.

6.    Pharmacies of the Future

Looking ahead, custom-engineered bacteria open new medical possibilities. Microbes can be designed as living diagnostic sensors that detect and report disease markers. Other genetically modified species directly synthesize therapies like insulin, human growth hormone or immune system cytokines that are otherwise difficult to obtain.

Advancing genetic engineering and microbiology techniques will expand bacteria-based treatments. The microscopic organisms that humans evolved with could unlock our healthier future.

From antibiotics to immunotherapy, bacteria underpin modern medicine and offer enormous untapped potential. As researchers elucidate the capabilities of different microbial species, bacteria-derived therapies will continue revolutionizing how we treat, prevent, and diagnose disease. Our former foes are becoming powerful allies.

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