Targeting gut bacteria may help burn patients

Burn patients experience dramatic changes in the bacteria inside the gastrointestinal tract, according to researchers, including one of Indian-origin, who suggest that burn patients might benefit from treatment with probiotics.

PTI| Last Updated: Jul 10, 2015, 14:05 PM IST

Washington: Burn patients experience dramatic changes in the bacteria inside the gastrointestinal tract, according to researchers, including one of Indian-origin, who suggest that burn patients might benefit from treatment with probiotics.

Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division scientists found that in patients who had suffered severe burns, there was a huge increase in Enterobacteriaceae, a family of potentially harmful bacteria.

There was a corresponding decrease in beneficial bacteria that normally keep harmful bacteria in check.

The findings suggest that burn patients might benefit from treatment with probiotics (live beneficial bacteria).

The findings also might apply to other trauma patients, including patients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, said the study's senior author Mashkoor Choudhry.

In healthy individuals, the gastrointestinal tract contains more than 100 trillion bacteria, called the microbiome, that live symbiotically and provide numerous benefits.

If this healthy balance is disrupted, a state called dysbiosis occurs. Dysbiosis has been linked to many conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

Choudhry and colleagues examined fecal samples from four severely burned patients who were treated in the Burn Center of Loyola University Medical Center.

The samples were taken 5 to 17 days after the burn injuries occurred. The microbiomes of these patients were compared with the microbiomes of a control group of eight patients who had suffered only minor burns.

In the severely burned patients, Enterobacteriaceae accounted for an average of 31.9 per cent of bacteria in the gut microbiome.

By comparison, Enterobacteriaceae accounted for only 0.5 per cent of the microbiome in patients who had suffered minor burns. Enterobacteriaceae is a family of bacteria that includes pathological bacteria such as E coli and Salmonella.

Choudhry said such imbalances of bacteria may contribute to sepsis or other infectious complications that cause 75 per cent of all deaths in patients with severe burns.

The imbalance could compromise the walls of the gastrointestinal tract, enabling harmful bacteria to leak out of the gut and into the bloodstream.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.