Bile helps fight cholera

By Biplab Das
Published: Friday 15 February 2008

new ways are being devised to tame the cholera bug. Of late, the bug has been getting increasingly resistant to antibiotics. A team from Kolkata has found that the digestive juice bile helped reduce production of cholera toxin by 97 per cent. Bile hinders the toxin to bind with cells in the intestine, thus preventing the onset of cholera. Unsaturated fatty acids in bile check the toxin's binding abilities.

Scientists say one way of checking cholera would be to administer unsaturated fatty acids orally, along with oral rehydration solutions--used to maintain fluid balance in the body. "This could be used as a precautionary and therapeutic measure for cholera and even diarrhoea," says Rukhsana Chowdhury, lead researcher from the biophysics division, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata.

T Ramamurthy, assistant director of National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata, says blockage of toxin binding domains seems to be a feasible approach for the clinical management of cholera and toxin-mediated enteric infections, like typhoid. The researchers got interested in bile's role in neutralizing toxins because bile meets with cholera toxins first in the early stages of infection.

For the study, the researchers exposed cholera toxin to bile salts and fatty acids taken from crude ox bile. They found that unsaturated fatty acids such as arachidonic, linoleic and oleic acids were most effective. "Our daily diet, especially oils like walnut oil, soybean oil, corn oil and sunflower seed oil, contains more than 50 per cent linoleic acid," says Chowdhury. Small amount of these oils might be sufficient to inactivate the cholera toxins. "The oils are not toxic and hence may be used as drugs without the fear of any side effects," Chowdhury adds.

He says the amount of bile in the intestine may be insufficient to prevent cholera toxins from binding with the cells there. Several other compounds were also tested against the toxin. Linoleic acid was found to be 200-times more effective than the others, says the study to be published in the January 2008 issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy journal (vol 52, no 1).

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