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Strawberry and chocolate danger could be prevented by good bacteria

Society For General Microbiology : 16 June, 2006  (New Product)
Consuming strawberries, chocolate and tea in excess can all lead to kidney stones, but the danger might be prevented by probiotics, according to medical researchers speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's 158th Meeting at the University of Warwick, UK.
Consuming strawberries, chocolate and tea in excess can all lead to kidney stones, but the danger might be prevented by probiotics, according to medical researchers speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's 158th Meeting at the University of Warwick, UK.

The list of foods containing the chemical compound oxalate is long, and ranges from common comfort foods like strawberries and chocolate, through traditionally healthy spinach, to beer and rhubarb. We cannot break down oxalate in our bodies, so once we eat it, it is either broken down by bacteria living in our intestines or excreted in our urine, which is when it can form kidney stones.

'Kidney stones can be extremely painful and may even need expensive laser treatment and surgery to remove them,' says Ms Thokozile Lewanika, a researcher from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, conducting some work at the University of Dundee. 'Kidney stones can also recur in susceptible individuals. About 80% of them are made from calcium oxalate, so increasing the amount of oxalate broken down by bacteria and cutting the amount we excrete in urine will reduce the risk of kidney stones forming'.

'We discovered that a common type of bacteria found in raw milk called lactobacillus, which is one of the hundreds of friendly bacteria or probiotics we normally carry in our guts, can break down oxalate,' says Thokozile Lewanika. 'We made an artificial model of the human colon and showed that this particular lactobacillus can degrade oxalate efficiently in the same space, acid conditions and time it would have in people. This makes it a good probiotic candidate to manage kidney stone disease'.

The next step for the Dundee team is to test the efficiency of lactobacillus in clinical trials. Because these bacteria are commonly found in foods we eat, moving from hospital trials to a medical or preventative dose of the probiotic will be much quicker than the usual toxicity tests needed in new conventional drug development.
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