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article imageICU’s effects on gut microbes

By Tim Sandle     Sep 27, 2014 in Science
Lengthy spells in intensive care units can alter the gut microflora, according to a new study. When a patient spends a long time in ICU the gut seems to undergo near-complete ecologic collapse. This has major health consequences.
The reason why the research into the microorganisms that reside in the human gut has been conducted is because, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a frequent source of blood-related septic infections. These are are common cause of death among already severely ill patients who spend time in intensive care units (ICUs).
Researchers have found that, through genetic sequence analyses of stool samples from ICU patients at University of Chicago hospitals, profound disruptions of gut microflora occur when compared to healthy patients. The microorganisms that a predominant in the guts of people in ICU's are the yeast Candida and multidrug-resistant bacteria.
To mimic the conditions in an ICU patient’s gut, the researchers grew the microbes in the presence of an opioid. Opioids often enter the gut in critically ill patients as part of a stress response, and are known to interact with the quorum-sensing signals that regulate bacterial virulence. These findings showed that patients with modified gut flora were a a greater risk to infection.
The implications from this study are that medical staff should prioritize getting a patient's gut back to health as fast as they can.
The study has been published in the journal published in mBio. The paper is titled "Membership and Behavior of Ultra-Low-Diversity Pathogen Communities Present in the Gut of Humans during Prolonged Critical Illness."
More about Bacteria, Gut, Intensive care unit, Immunity
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