Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel have identified novel drug candidates based on molecules isolated from probiotic yoghurt for combating pathogenic bacteria and for treating various inflammatory conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and COVID-19 related cytokine storms.
The research, led by Orit Malka, a PhD student in the laboratory of Prof. Raz Jelinek, the Vice President and Dean for Research & Development at BGU, was published in Microbiome, a leading peer-reviewed publication.
A startup company has recently been established for the further development and commercialization of the technology by BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of BGU, and co-founders, Prof. Jelinek and Malka.
Kefir, a type of yoghurt, is a fermented probiotic dairy drink made by inoculating milk with microorganism mixtures, particularly yeast and bacteria. Malka and Jelinek succeeded in isolating molecules secreted by a predominant yeast in the kefir and showed that the molecules have significant potential to combat pathogenic bacteria.
In particular, the BGU researchers demonstrated that the kefir-secreted molecules were able to significantly reduce virulence of Vibrio cholerae – the causative agent of cholera.
In a follow-up study, the scientists observed that the isolated molecules had dramatic anti-inflammatory properties in various pathological conditions and disease models.
"In a reality where antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming an imminent threat, the novel molecules discovered by BGU scientists pave a completely new path for fighting bacterial infections by disrupting cell-cell communications in pathogenic bacteria. Moreover, the dramatic anti-inflammatory activities of the molecules may open new avenues for therapeutics and scientifically proven probiotic food products," said Josh Peleg, CEO of BGN Technologies.