G-M-O. Three letters guaranteed to spark lively, if not heated, debate amongst lifelong friends. These three letters, of course, stand for “genetically modified organisms.” Why are they so controversial? Why would people hate, or love, things that are living?
The truth is, much of what the public thinks about GMOs is based on hearsay rather than the facts. But a pharmaceutical company in Massachusetts is trying to modify a deadly form of bacteria to combat a deadly disease. Maybe, just maybe, they will succeed at getting E.coli bacteria to treat urea cycle disorders, which are sometimes implicated in cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Researchers are working to treat metabolic disorders that are caused by an abundance of ammonia in a person’s system. This abundance is usually the result of accumulation from the liver not properly breaking down ammonia and sending the resulting urea to the renal system to be excreted.
Approximately 20% of SIDS cases may be the result of urea cycle disorders.
E. coli bacteria love to consume ammonia, so it seems like a natural fix. However, the idea of introducing deadly bacteria into the system has some people on edge. Scientists have identified more than 700 strains of E. coli. Of course, not all of these are as dangerous as the top end strains. However, E. coli poisoning is still responsible for nearly a 100 deaths in the U.S.A. every year.
The pill being developed by researchers will contain about 100 billion bacteria each. Their research is just the latest step in a long line of genetically modified organisms being used to combat disease. Certain forms of cancer tumors are being treated with modified salmonella bacteria. Any way you look at it, scientists are turning the destructive power of bacteria against a new target for better health.
While there are many legitimate concerns that people have when it comes to GMOs, it’s important to remember the long process that goes into developing medical treatments. Research and laboratory testing have already shown the effective use of this bacteria in fighting ammonia accumulation. The FDA has approved human trials for 2017.
With the success of the salmonella bacteria and the potential success of E. coli bacteria in fighting these diseases, maybe we can hope for more great revolutions from the microscopic world of bacteria.
Click here to read more about how scientists are modifying E. coli.