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Video: Alcohol Can Destroy The Liver Of Even Non-drinkers
Alcohol can destroy the liver of even non-drinkers
Chinese scientists believe they have stumbled upon an unusual cause of liver disease: certain bacteria can produce alcohol in our intestines. They published the results in the journal Cell Metabolism.
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Chinese scientists believe they have stumbled upon an unusual cause of liver disease: certain bacteria can produce alcohol in our intestines. The scientists published the results in the journal Cell Metabolism.
According to the lead author of the work, Jing Yuan of the Beijing Institute of Pediatrics, their discovery was completely coincidental. The authors of the study treated a patient with severe liver disease in which too much fat accumulates in the organ. The most common cause of fatty liver is alcohol abuse, but many people also develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In this patient's case, the disease progressed to the point that it resulted in severe liver inflammation. This form of NAFLD, called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), can cause liver damage and liver cancer.
When Dr. Yuan and his colleagues looked closely at the case, they found that the patient's blood alcohol level was unusually high, higher than typical drunkenness, but according to the patient, he did not drink alcohol regularly. The impression was that he had a rare condition called "internal fermentation syndrome." Patients with this syndrome produce a decent amount of alcohol from the breakdown or fermentation of starchy foods. Only a handful of such cases have been reported, but it has long been thought that an excess of certain yeasts in the gut (the same yeast that produces beer and wine) is the only cause of the syndrome. But this case turned out to be much more complicated.
“Surprisingly, we found that this effect was caused by bacteria, not yeast, because the antifungal drugs did not work on it. In this case, we isolated and identified several strains of the bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae that have been associated with the production of endoalcohol,”says Dr. Yuan.
To test their theory, the scientists decided to experiment on mice. They transplanted samples of the alcoholic bacteria K. pneumoniae (the strains were named HiAlc) directly into the stomachs of NAFLD mice, and the disease continued to develop. The same thing happened when they replaced the natural gut bacteria of healthy mice with the gut bacteria from NAFLD mice through fecal microbiota transplantation. However, this did not happen when they got rid of the HiAlc K. pneumoniae bacteria prior to the transplant, which confirmed the assumption that this bacterium is the culprit. When they examined the intestines of people living in China with NAFLD, they found that more than 60% of them also appeared to have K. pneumoniae strains. According to Yuan, it is highly likely that these bacteria are one of the causative agents of NAFLD in humans.
Of course, there are many factors that make people vulnerable to NAFLD. These include obesity and type 2 diabetes, but importantly, they are also metabolic diseases associated, like NAFLD, with an imbalance in the gut microbiome. However, much more research is needed to understand the activity of these bacteria and their relationship to liver health. Chinese scientists intend to study in the future why some people are more likely to carry these strains, and to find out if getting rid of these strains with antibiotics will help cure NAFLD.
The patient, thanks to whom the Chinese doctors began the study, is already on the mend. Scientists believe this was due to changes in diet and antibiotic treatment.