Scientists studying a specific kind of bacterium found in dirt believe it could help us produce a ‘stress vaccine’ within the next 10 to 15 years to stave off the risk of developing PTSD and other stress-related illnesses.
The bacterial ‘magic bullet’, known as Mycobacterium vaccae (‘M. vaccae’ for short), contains anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory, and stress resilience properties. It can alleviate asthma symptoms, prevent a variety of inflammation-related disorders including colitis and certain kinds of bowel disease and could even prevent stress-induced anxiety responses in the human body.
Immunization with a prepared form of M. Vaccae can also induce anti-inflammatory responses in the brain, though the exact mechanism in which it operates remains a mystery.
This latest research, reported in Psychopharmacology, stems from the “old friends” theory which claims that humans and certain microorganisms like M. vaccae co-evolved over millions of years, developing a mutually beneficial relationship. However, our moves towards more urbane lifestyles have made us lose touch with our “old friends.”
“That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders,” neuroendocrinologist Christopher Lowry says.
M. vaccae has already proven effective in trials with mice, now it just remains to be seen how profound an effect our “old friend” can have on humans. Researchers believe they could produce a ‘stress vaccine’ within the next 15 years.
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