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Mice Guts Have Bacteria That Breaks Down Nicotine

by Coffee Table Science

Working with a colleague in the US, a group of researchers from various Chinese institutions has discovered a particular kind of bacterium in the intestinal tracts of mice that breaks down nicotine. The team explains in its research how they discovered the bacteria and why their discovery might lower the prevalence of fatty liver disease in people.

Image credits: Pixabay

A bacteria that lowers the risk of fatty liver disease

According to a previous study, cigarette smoking is the world’s most prominent cause of preventable mortality. Smoking cigarettes has been associated with causing fatty liver disease and lung illness. In this new study, the researchers discovered that a certain type of bacteria breaks down nicotine in mice’s stomachs (caused by forced smoking), lowering the risk of developing fatty liver disease. It has been shown that some nicotine from cigarettes enters the gut when people (or mice) smoke them, increasing the risk of fatty liver disease, which is linked to scarring, and in some cases, liver cancer.

How did researchers conclude this?

In this study, the researchers compared the stool samples of 30 adult smokers and 30 nonsmokers to determine how much nicotine enters the colon. The same procedure was then carried out on mice, and the outcomes were comparable.

Image credits: Pixabay

The nicotine experiment was repeated after many lab mice’s stomachs had been disinfected. More nicotine was identified in the systems of the mice whose intestines had been sterilized, proving that at least one species of gut bacteria was responsible for breaking down the nicotine. By using a process of elimination, they were able to identify the bacteria (Bacteroides xylanisolvens) that was causing the breakdown because it was churning out a nicotine-degrading enzyme. This bacteria has been found to exist in the human intestine, according to earlier studies. In order to determine whether the enzyme can be made commercially and administered to smokers to lessen their risk of developing fatty liver disease and, consequently, liver cancer, the researchers will analyze it and the enzymes it makes next.

This study was published in the journal Nature.

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