January 9, 2019 (University of Michigan)
Researchers from the University of Michigan have recently “identified a cluster of nose and throat bacteria that made their hosts less likely to get the flu.”
Professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health, Betsy Foxman, and her colleagues assessed the relationship between the bacteria in our noses and throats and a host’s susceptibility to the influenza virus. They did this using data from a longitudinal household transmission study of the flu.
This study was known as the Nicaraguan Household Transmission Study, which took place from 2012-2014. Recruitment for this study required individuals from a household in which other members of the same household had confirmed influenza. Participants were then followed for just under 2 weeks (13 days) or until they too had developed the influenza.
There were 717 people enrolled in this study from 144 households. Of these 717 individuals, the analysis included only the 537 individuals – those who tested negative for influenza at the start of the study.
Researchers used DNA sequencing to determine which bacteria were present in the nose and throat and in doing so, discovered five clusters of bacteria across all samples. Along with other factors taken into consideration, such as age and if individuals had received a flu shot, the researchers then looked to see if a certain cluster of bacteria in the individuals had any effect on susceptibility and whether or not they got influenza.
Based on this study, the researchers determined that certain clusters do make a difference in whether or not individuals got influenza.
While a lot more research is needed to do anything with these findings, this news is exciting for the medical community because it opens the door for a possible “microbiome pill,” which could help individuals stave off the flu and prevent secondary infections from the flu.