Medical researchers are increasingly focused on the importance of the human microbiome in human health.
Just what is the microbiome?
According to the University of Washington, “the microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses – that live on and inside the human body (10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells).”
In a paper recently published in Neuropsychopharmacology[i], researchers at Wake Forest examine the gut microbiome’s role in cocaine use and cravings.
To conduct their study, the research team administered antibiotics to one group of rodents to disrupt their microbiomes. A control group was fed a regular diet without antibiotics.
They discovered that antibiotic-treated rodents consumed more cocaine and worked far harder to get cocaine than rodents who had healthy, untreated gut microbiomes. This finding suggests that the health of the gut microbiome may impact cocaine cravings. The Wake Forest team also found changes in key proteins in reward centers of the brains of rodents with depleted gut microbiomes.
Taking it a step further, the researchers discovered that when they injected molecules produced by healthy gut bacteria into the gut microbiome-depleted rodents, the team could reverse the changes produced by antibiotic-induced microbiome depletion.
There are currently no FDA-approved drugs to treat cocaine use disorder. While further study is required, it’s hoped these findings might lead to novel treatment options for those addicted to cocaine.
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