Probiotics, which have recently become popular for their health benefits, often include certain kinds of good bacteria. Now, scientists are taking those health benefits one step farther, and want to include bacteria in pills to treat specific illnesses.
Take the bacteria in our guts, for example. Not only does this bacteria help with digestion, but it can also be good for our brains. Seres Health is experimenting with using bacteria to treat a nasty digestion problem, called Clostridium difficule, or C. difficile, which happens when antibiotics destroy the naturally-occurring bacteria in the digestive system. C. difficile is deadly and kills nearly 14,000 people a year in the U.S. alone. Seres studied gut bacteria extensively to figure out which is most linked to healthy functions. From that, it created its own strain of the bacteria, and put it into pill form.
Of course, exactly what this strain is will be kept under lock and key, as pharmaceutical companies are competitive: something that occurs naturally in the body, like this bacteria, can’t have its own patent. Other companies are already looking to genetically modify the bacteria so that they can get a patent on whatever solution they come up with.