Gut health can dramatically affect whole-body health. One of the latest findings to support this idea shows that using an antibiotic to alter the bacteria in the guts of rats lessened the damage to the heart and kidneys sometimes seen with hypertension.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, affects approximately 1.28 billion adults across the planet, according to the World Health Organization, and is a major cause of death worldwide. While many people are aware that the condition can lead to serious cardiac issues such as heart attack and stroke, hypertension can also cause serious damage to the kidneys and, in fact, is the second leading cause of kidney failure in the United States after diabetes.
Seeking to lessen hypertension’s impact on the kidneys, researchers turned to a part of the body that is getting more and more attention in research these days: the gut.
In particular, they treated the guts of hypertensive rats with two types of antibiotics. One, called polymyxin B, which treats bacteria known as Gram-negative, had no impact. But another, known as vancomycin showed a significant impact on reducing hypertension-induced inflammation in the kidneys. Vancomycin treats infection from Gram-positive bacteria and is frequently prescribed to combat infections from streptococci, enterococci, and antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
The vancomycin also lessened the incidence of hypertension-related hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle gets thicker, making it harder for it to pump blood. Interestingly, neither antibiotic lowered blood pressure, but that finding was a positive one for the research team.
“Our study shows that modifying the gut microbiota, in this case by oral administration of nonabsorbable antibiotics in a rat model, can ameliorate hypertensive kidney damage and inflammation, independent of blood pressure,” said study co-author Moritz Immanuel Wimmer of Charité – Universitätsmediz in Berlin. “In the future, we would like to achieve such effects without antibiotics. We also aim to further understand and harness the underlying mechanisms for the kidney protective effects we observed.”
The results of the study add to a growing body of work that supports a link between the collection of organisms in the gut and a wide range of health benefits and issues including healing from muscle injuries; longevity; depression; childhood allergies; and more.
The current findings are being presented this week at the American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week in Philadelphia, PA.