21 January 2011

An antidepressant bacterium?

Injections of a common bacterium improved the mood of cancer patients
Copper news

British researchers have found that the injection of a bacterium related to the causative agents of tuberculosis and leprosy (leprosy) significantly improves the mood and quality of life of cancer patients, reports New Scientist (Infectious moods: The happiness injection).

Researchers from University College London and Immodulon Therapeutics conducted experimental treatment of volunteers with lung cancer by injecting them with a common bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae, which lives in the soil. Scientists hoped to stimulate the anti-cancer immunity of patients in this way.

The goal could not be achieved, however, an unexpected side effect was found in patients receiving injections of mycobacteria: mood significantly improved, depression and irritability associated with cancer decreased. As Charles Akle of Immodulon noted, although the study was double–blind (in which neither the patient nor the doctor knows whether an experimental drug or a placebo was prescribed), the experimenters clearly noticed who was injected with the bacterium - the condition of patients and their attitude to the outside world changed so clearly.

Previous experiments on laboratory mice have shown that both injections of killed M.vaccae and the addition of live bacteria to the feed stimulate the production of serotonin in some brain structures. In particular, this occurs in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for complex social behavior and decision-making. Increasing serotonin levels reduces anxiety, improves mood, and also has a positive effect on learning and intelligence.

The specific mechanism of such an effect of mycobacteria on serotonin production is still unknown. According to Graham Rook from University College, it can be implemented through immune mechanisms, but this has yet to be proven.

The research team plans to test the data obtained on patients with concomitant prostate cancer depression and engage in a detailed study of the mechanism of action of bacteria on the brain.

(Doubters can read the publicly available articles of this group of researchers in reputable scientific journals: on the treatment of mice from depression – Lowry et al., Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic system: Potential role in regulation of emotional behavior // Neuroscience, May 2007, and that all diseases, even those that are from nerves, in fact – from the lack of dirt: Rook & Lowry, The hygiene hypothesis and psychiatric disorders // Trends in Immunology, April 2008 – ED.)

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