Drugs from the Bottom

Warning: This is my area of expertise, what I have spent my entire career doing so it could get more than a little bit lectury. I’ll try to keep it not too technical.

So, it seems Buyoff Billy has his next scheme under way. He wants to make drugs that modify your intestinal microflora.

A brief aside first – I haven’t been around much lately. Couple of reasons – I’m tied up with editing and my eternal dodgy guts decided to go for the big time last week. Half-convinced I had appendicitis, it got so bad that I actually called the doctor’s surgery without being nagged into it!

The doctor called back within minutes. A brief glance at my medical records (there isn’t much in there) would have told her that the last time they saw me, some years ago, I had cracked ribs and a bashed kidney and had been peeing blood for three days before I gave in and called them. They know I’m not the type to bother them unless it looks like imminent death. I was actually invited to visit the surgery! I declined because CStM doesn’t drive and I was in no fit state.

Notably, there was no mention of vaccine or testing. I suspect many doctors are getting sick of the charade too. Some are speaking out, some are resigning, which isn’t good. It means we’ll be left with only the Pharmer shills. For now, there are still some good ones working.

Anyway, she prescribed some pills, my daughter picked them up for me and it’s all good now. Well, it’s back to ‘normal’ – I still have dodgy guts but that runs in the family, so to speak. This is somewhat relevant to the post – I worked in intestinal microbiology almost all of my career, dealing with some very unpleasant samples and quite a few dangerous pathogens. I did a lot of work in probiotics and prebiotics with possibly the best motivation a scientist can have – fixing my own gut problems.

I haven’t fixed them, since it’s genetic I doubt that can ever happen, but I have learned to mostly control them. Mainly with diet. And an occasional dose of The Stuff I Can’t Talk About, which I have in the fridge here.

Brief explanation of The Stuff for anyone new here – after the department I worked in closed down I went solo. Self employed in research and consultancy. Basically, rogue scientist. I did a lot of work for food companies, rented lab space (bizarrely, just a few doors along from the lab I worked in before) and that work was mostly on prebiotics. It’s still covered by confidentiality agreements so I still can’t publicise what was in it. Nor indeed, what is still in it in my fridge.

‘Prebiotic’ was a very poor choice of name, because trying to search ‘prebiotic’ throws up a lot of work on the chemicals on Earth before life evolved. Picking out papers on the modern definition was seriously difficult. The modern prebiotic is something you eat that specifically feeds the good guys in your gut so they are better able to kick the crap out of the bad guys when they show up – or even if they are already there. This is different to ‘probiotic’ which involves adding live bacteria – usually one or more of the lactic acid bacteria group – to your microflora. Like Actimel. That’s a probiotic. Inulin is a prebiotic, it works but take too much and you’ll get gas production to rival Russia. The Stuff does not have that problem.

My first work as a loose cannon centred on Clostridium difficile, a very nasty bacterium that you mostly catch in hospital when your immune system and gut bacteria are already buggered by antibiotics. Oh I could fix it, the doctors who let us try this on patients were delighted. The antibiotics they’d need to use on this infection – metronidazole and vancomycin – are very heavily toxic themselves. They are last-resort drugs, but nothing else worked. We (the food company I worked for, me, and a couple of other scientists acting as advisors) made a yoghourt-like drink that was actually very pleasant. One a day and the symptoms soon reduced. Best of all, it contained nothing that could be considered a medication so you didn’t need a prescription.

As I say, the doctors were delighted. Admin were not. They blocked every attempt to arrange a proper, definitive trial. We could not get a yoghourt drink past their ethical committee. Why? Well it was cheap and involved no patented drugs. Oh we knew why, the doctors knew why, but none of us were allowed to say. It was something to do with certain peoples’ profits. I’ll say no more on this.

Right. Few people think much about what happens inside them. In your gut there are about three pounds (approx. 1.5 kg) of bacteria. Doesn’t sound like much does it? Okay, take a glass of water. There will need to be close to a million bacteria per millilitre before that water starts to look cloudy. And it won’t even register on a normal kitchen scale as being any heavier than a glass of pure water. Three pounds of bacteria is not just a minor amount. It’s an entire ecosystem. There are more bacteria in everyone’s gut than there are people, or even mammals, on Earth. Many, many species – it used to be classed as around 400 species until DNA analysis really took off and we started to find genes from bacteria we didn’t know existed. Now it’s likely to be at least double that number.

Incidentally… from the linked article…

“It’s only in the past 15 years that we’ve come to understand the incredible diversity of the microbiome. It’s almost like a rainforest inside our bodies. There are 100 times more bacterial genes than human genes,” says Smith.

Past 15 years? Bollocks. We’ve known about this for a very long time indeed. It was clear when I started, when I moved from ruminant to non-ruminant gut research in 1990. We were meddling with the very fabric of life itself even then, working on probiotics for pigs to try to stop a K88 variant of Escherichia coli that made pigs very sick. It doesn’t hurt humans at all but then E. coli O157 does nothing to pigs so… swings and roundabouts.

Early on in my career I had considered the ‘perfect probiotic’. You would take this bacterium, most likely a Lactobacillus or a Bifidobacterium, dose it into one pig and it would spread through the piggery and they’d all be protected. I soon realised it couldn’t work, but my reasons were not the same as those who were trying to put me off.

Their reasoning was economic. If my idea was possible, there’s no money in it. Selling one dose to an entire piggery, once, was nothing compared to selling a weekly dose that had to be dosed into every individual pig. Well I could see that but my focus has never been money. I’ve never had very much of it and wouldn’t know what to do with it if I did.

My reasoning was that the gut bacteria are an ecosystem that does not like to be disturbed. They are, you could say, territorial. This is different in every single gut, the dominant species in yours is not the same as the dominant species in mine. You mess up the equilibrium they have established and they will make you pay. A big dose of antibiotics will do it, the equilibrium is broken and they hit the exits fast.

While that equilibrium is in chaos your gut is open to the establishment of a new one. Not necessarily a better one. This disruption is how things like Cl. difficile get a hold, and several other gut infections only found in hospitals. Oh you won’t have heard about those, you only hear how they are smoke-free, not infection-free. I blame it mostly on the outsourcing of cleaners but that’s another story, related to the reasons behind food borne diseases. A different lecture, I’ll try not to get distracted.

Okay. So. You have a gut ecosystem in equilibrium. This is why Salmonella has to go in mob-handed to set up an infection. A few of them will get wiped out at once. They need thousands in one dose to get established. The Local Gut Bacteria do not like strangers.

They don’t like probiotics either. Yes, they are the ‘good guys’ but they are still strangers and the gut bacteria do not like competition. That’s why you need to take things like Actimel daily. The bacteria it contains will not establish in your gut. Their competitors will fight them for that ecological niche.

So we come to prebiotics. Your gut already has many species and genera of the lactic acid bacteria. The prebiotic idea is to feed them, make them stronger and better able to fight the pathogens when they try to invade. It works, it boosts your resistance to gut pathogens (other than viruses, bacteria can do nothing to stop them) but it can never transfer between people. You can pass on a live bacterium but not a chemical that’s bacteria food. You have to take this stuff routinely and individually.

Which can be profitable even if it’s cheap. But if it’s not profiting the Pharmers, they stamp on it. We have seen this in action recently. There’s no point denying it, it’s been clear for a long time.

You can fix most gut problems with diet. I am not lactose intolertant and I do not have gluten allergy. My fucked up guts are genetic. However… I won’t get a life threatening reaction to gluten but I definitely react badly to having too much of it. Basketball belly and power washer arse. Gluten and lactose are in so many things now it’s easy to get an overdose. Even if you don’t have an actual allergy, an overdose can be bad.

You know those precooked chickens and chicken pieces that are browner than anything you’ve ever cooked? They are coated with lactose. It’s not sweet enough to be noticed but it caramelises like sucrose. Gives that lovely brown colour without adding sweetness. You eat those, you’re adding to your lactose intake. Too much and, as with gluten, your gut bacteria go into overdrive and… boom. Literally.

Now, Billy Gates Gruff is getting involved in this. He is not going to be interested in faecal transplants (these work best between related individuals because your own genetics have an effect on which bacteria grow best in there) because these are not Pharmer profits.

He has made clear he wants a ‘vaccine’ that spreads on its own. A genetically modified bacterium that establishes in someone’s gut and spreads through the whole population. This is the way to do it. He won’t make a lot of money from it but does he really need any more? He will, however, gain massive control from this. Your guts will be subject to patent.

Because as with everything else he has meddled with, it will be a disaster for humanity. Everyone’s gut is different. Everyone has their own unique gut ecosystem. When this thing gets into you, you are likely to need lifelong medication to keep it under control.

I doubt the Billy Gates Gruff understands this, he’s just a front man after all. He just revels in the cash. He does nothing, he pays other people to do stuff. In the Global Heirarchy, he’s middle management.

So his solution is going to be expensive meddling, like everything else he does. It’s going to harm and kill a lot of people, but then as a population-reduction advocate, that’s his goal anyway.

If you don’t have any gut problems, stay well away from anything that comes out of this.

If you do, look at your diet first. That is where the solutions lie.

21 thoughts on “Drugs from the Bottom

  1. That’s really interesting and some of us like it when you get lectury 🙂 Biochemist myself but really appreciate when you get the time to go deeper into micro. A source we can trust!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I try to remember that not everyone will have a background in this – but it does help that I used to write articles aimed at farmers in the local paper. So I know how to keep the jargon to a minimum 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Leggy, you might still get rich! (In a dystopian kind of way)

    From Johns Hopkins:

    Click to access 181009-gcbr-tech-report.pdf

    ….’Self-Spreading Vaccines: Self-spreading vaccines are genetically engineered to move through populations like communicable diseases, but rather than causing disease, they confer protection. The vision is that a small number of individuals in a target population could be vaccinated, and the vaccine strain would then circulate in the population much like a pathogenic virus, resulting in rapid, widespread immunity.’….

    I don’t like where any of this is going.

    Liked by 1 person

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