A major breakthrough has been made in the understanding of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which may lead to more treatments for sufferers.
More than 100,000 Australians live with IBD, a chronic condition with two main subtypes, Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis.
It's believed to be caused by abnormal gut bacteria that produces an immune response in genetically susceptible people, resulting in severe symptoms and disability.
Patients are generally treated with powerful drugs that suppress the immune symptoms, but they only work for around half of sufferers.
But new research by a team at Mater Research in Brisbane could change that.
"While the gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria that have co-evolved with humans over time, our lab tests identified five strains that were able to suppress inflammation in blood and tissue samples from IBD patients," Associate Professor Jake Begun said.
"One of these healthy gut bacterial strains produced anti-inflammatory substances that were able to reduce disease severity in a pre-clinical model by inhibiting one of the master molecular regulators of inflammation called NF-kB, without causing any side-effects."
It's hoped the findings will pave a way for the development of therapies for IBD based on natural substances produced by good gut bacteria.
They could also potentially help prevent some forms of bowel cancer.
About one in five people whose disease affects their colon develops colorectal cancer, double the rate in the general population.
While the findings are exciting, Dr Begun said lifestyle choices could drastically reduce a person's risk of developing IBD and bowel cancer.
"Studies show that diets rich in fibre and low in refined sugar, ultra-processed food, and processed meat can reduce the risk of IBD and bowel cancer," he said.
"Early detection and treatment is associated with the best outcomes in colorectal cancer."
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.