Research shows that daily supplements of a form of yeast beta1,3-glucan may stimulate the immune system of mice to significantly reduce mortality from a lethal anthrax spore infection.
The work is a follow up to a decade of anthrax research at DRES, a centre for chemical and biological defense within the Canadian Department of Defence. It has been published in a peer-reviewed article in the Spring edition of the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association (JANA).
Researchers also reported that the same orally-administrated form of beta1,3-glucan provided tumour protective effects by statistically decreasing the size and weight of tumours removed from study animals.
The research team involved scientists at Biopolymer Engineering, Minnesota, the Defence Research Establishment Suffield (DRES), Alberta, Canada and Biophage Pharma, Montreal, Canada. They found that mice treated daily with oral, yeast-derived WGP Beta Glucan for seven days prior to injection of Bacillus anthracis spores had a 100 per cent survival rate, compared with 50 per cent for mice in the control group.
"Up to now, there has been little data available concerning the efficacy of beta1,3-glucan when taken orally," noted JANA editor-in-chief, Dr Mark Houston, and associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
"This important scientific contribution by Dr Vetvicka and colleagues demonstrates the potential benefits of this nutraceutical product against the bio-terrorism agent, anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)," he added.
Numerous preclinical and clinical studies have established the anti-infective and anti-tumour properties of the beta1,3-glucans, a natural, immune-stimulating carbohydrate, when administered by injection. The new research, according to the authors, demonstrates that these properties can be achieved with WGP Beta Glucan in animals when delivered orally prior to a challenge.
In a separate study, researchers at the Tokyo Dental College, University of Louisville and Biopolymer Engineering demonstrated that mice in a colon cancer model treated daily with oral WGP Beta Glucan after 21 days had a 21 per cent decrease in tumour weight and volume, compared with untreated mice in the control group. The treated mice were found to have increased cytokine levels IL-2 (2.3-fold), IFN-y (4.4-fold) and TNF-a (2.2-fold) over control animals.
The authors write that further research is needed to "fully understand the mechanisms mediating the anthrax and tumour-protective effect. We believe that through specific interactions between the beta1,3-glucan active component of Imucell WGP [beta glucan] and beta1,3-glucan receptors on M-cells within Peyer's patches in the intestinal mucosa, that a systemic signal provided by cytokines is elicited by the gut-associated lymphatic system that stimulates the innate immune system components (macrophages, neutrophils, and NK cells) to a higher functional level, increasing the first line of host defence mechanisms."
In an editorial commentary, JANA editorial board member Dr Russell Blaylock, noted: "With the high incidence of complications associated with anthrax vaccines, an approach to protect Americans against this potential bio-terrorism agent is badly needed. Vetvicka and colleagues demonstrated in their study that the yeast derived beta1,3-glucan given orally stimulates TNF-alpha release from the machrophage, apparently overcoming inhibition by anthrax lethal toxin. This would account for the high survival rates in the beta1,3-glucan treated animals."
"It should be noted that while the data provided in the research by Vetvicka and colleagues is preliminary and needs to be confirmed by larger controlled trials, it is an important contribution that demonstrates the potential effectiveness of a nutraceutical product in treating infectious agents and tumours," noted Dr Bernd Wollschlaeger, assistant clinical professor of medicine and family medicine, University of Miami School of Medicine and JANA associate editor.