A new study suggests that a probiotic pill – one containing live bacteria – can radically reduce blood glucose levels. In experiments researchers discovered that using a pill containing common bacteria found in the human gut can shift the control of glucose levels from the pancreas to the upper intestine. Professor John March, leading the research believed that this “rewiring” of the body could revolutionize treatment for diabetes – both Types 1 and 2 – and potentially one day offer the possibility of a cure.
He said: “If it works really well in people, it could be that they just take the pill and wouldn’t have to do anything else to control their diabetes. It’s likely, though, that it will be used in conjunction with some other treatment.” Diabetes occurs when the amount of glucose in a sufferer’s blood becomes too high because the body cannot use it properly. This happens when the pancreas does not produce any insulin (Type 1), or not enough insulin to help glucose enter the body’s cells – or the insulin that is produced does not work properly, known as insulin resistance (Type 2).
The new study published in the journal Diabetes, suggests a manufactured probiotic pill could shift control of glucose levels away from the pancreas – addressing both types of diabetes. , senior author Professor March and colleagues at Cornell University, New York, told how they had engineered a common strain of “friendly” human gut bacteria called Lactobacillus to secrete a peptide – a hormone that releases insulin in response to food. Lactobacillus is a probiotic often used to prevent and treat diarrhoea, as well as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease and some skin disorders.
Over a period of 90 days, the research team ogave the modified probiotic in the form of a pill to a group of diabetic rats. They then monitored its effects on blood glucose levels, comparing the outcomes with diabetic rats that did not receive it.