A team of Israeli researchers has identified new drug candidates from probiotic Kefir yogurt that may combat pathogenic bacteria and treat various inflammatory conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease and Covid-19 infections.
The study, led by researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel, highlighted the mechanism by which milk fermented probiotics can protect against pathogenic infections and aid the immune system.
The drug candidates are based on molecules isolated from Kefir yogurt — a fermented probiotic dairy drink made by infusing cow or goat milk with kefir grains containing yeast and lactic acid bacteria.
The findings, published in the journal Microbiome, demonstrated that the kefir-secreted molecules can significantly reduce virulence of Vibrio cholerae — which causes cholera. The anti-bacterial effect was based on disrupting communication among the bacterial cells.
Further, the experimental results revealed that the isolated molecules effectively healed mice inflicted with a lethal “cytokine storm” — the extreme immune response, which is one of the main causes of death in Covid-19 patients.
The molecules not only eliminated the cytokine storm, but also restored balance to the immune system, an extraordinary feat pointing to significant therapeutic potential.
While the healthy properties of probiotics in yogurt have been widely recognised, the study showed how these actually have the potential to be highly effective drugs, the researchers said.
“These results are notable, since this is the first demonstration that virulence of human pathogenic bacteria can be mitigated by molecules secreted in probiotic milk products, such as yogurt or kefir,” said Raz Jelinek, Professor at the BGU.
“Following promising results in animal models, we look forward to administering these drug candidates to patients who are experiencing a cytokine storm due to Covid-19 infection, or people suffering from acute inflammatory bowel pathologies, such as Crohn’s disease,” Jelinek added.
The researchers have formed a new company to develop and commercialise the technology.