Gut bacteria may influence drug effectiveness in diabetes

Diabetes has grown into a ‘global pandemic’, with more than 415 million people worldwide affected by type 2 diabetes. Although there is yet no cure for diabetes, treatment and lifestyle changes can help control the disease.

Though there are many diabetes drugs available in the market, their success rate in controlling diabetes varies from patient to patient and depends on the form of administration. New research by scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in the US, have now implicated gut bacteria as one of the possible causes for this varying success rate.

Previous studies have shown that gut bacteria can ‘prompt’ obesity and type 2 diabetes, and that people living with diabetes have an imbalance in the composition of their gut bacteria. Also, earlier tests have revealed that some diabetes drugs are effective when given intravenously into the blood circulation, but do not work when taken orally, where it has to pass through the gut. Conversely, another common anti-diabetes drug, works best when given orally but does not work when given intravenously.

Based on these observations, the researchers began to look at influence that gut bacteria, often referred to as ‘microbiome’ have in either boosting or inhibiting the efficacy of certain diabetes medications. They found that by modulating the gut microbiome with drugs, the efficacy of drugs for type 2 diabetes could be boosted, changed or reversed.

The researchers concluded that the metabolic capacity of a patient’s microbiome could influence the absorption and function diabetes drugs by making them pharmacologically active, inactive, or even toxic.  However, the researchers cautioned that more studies were needed to decipher the exact interactions between gut bacteria and diabetes drugs, as the possibility of developing treatments derived from bacteria related to or involved in specific diseases is tantalizing,