McMaster researchers in Hamilton part of find that may help IBS sufferers


Published July 27, 2022 at 5:25 pm

A pair of researchers in Hamilton were part of a breakthrough that will help people who contend with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Premysl Bercik, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at McMaster University, and assistant professor of medicine Giada de Palma, were part of a team that discovered a gut bacterial “super-producer” of the histamine that causes pain for some IBS patients. They and fellow researchers from Queen’s University at Kingston have called it the MQ strain, or “Klebsiella aerogenes.”

Through testing samples from Canadian and American patient cohorts, and colonizing some mice who were heretofore germ-free, they were able identify the bacterium that leads to abdominal pain. Their study found that Klebsiella aerogenes converts an essential amino acid that is present in animal and plant protein into histamine, which in turn leads to the unpleastant symptoms of IBL.

“We followed up these patients for several months and found high levels of stool histamine at the time when the patients reported severe pain, and low stool histamine when they were pain-free,” said Dr. Bercik, who was a senior author on the team’s peer-reviewed paper, which was published in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The pathway that this study may open could involve new treatments for IBS, although more biomarkers might need to be found to finetune which IBS patients stand to benefit.

“Now that we know how the histamine is produced in the gut, we can identify and develop therapies that target the histamine producing bacteria,” Dr. de Palma said.

Bercik added that the results further verify the benefits from patients with IBS having a low fermentable diet. This is called the called the FODMAPS approach. The acronym derives from the clinical terms for nondigestible short-chain carbohydrates that draw water into a person’s digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal discomfort.

Those include the following carbs, with examples of foods that include them.

  • Oligosaccharides: wheat, rye, nuts, legumes, garlic, and onion
  • Disaccharides: lactose-containing products such as milk, yogiurt, soft cheese and ice cream
  • Monosaccharides: fructose-containing foods, including fruits such as apples, pears and mango; also sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, and-high fructose corn syrup
  • Polyols: mannitol and sorbitol in apples, pears, cauliflower, stone fruits, mushrooms, and snow peas, as well as xylitol and isomalt in low-calorie sweeteners, such as those in sugar-free gum and mints

Dr. Stephan Vanner, a professor of medicine at Queen’s, was the senior co-author of the study. De Palma and Dr. David Reed, an assistant professor of medicine at Queen’s, were co-first authors.

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