High dose B3 may offer hope in fight against 'superbugs'

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Immune system

High dose B3 may offer hope in fight against 'superbugs'
Very high doses of vitamin B3 could help battle antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs’ by increasing the ability of the immune system to kill off infections, says new research.

The new research – published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation​ – suggests that vitamin B3 may be able to combat antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcal​ (staph) infections that are becoming increasingly common around the world.

Led by Adrian Gombart of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, USA, the research team tested the effects of very high doses of vitamin B3 – otherwise known as niacin and nicotinamide – on mice and human blood in the lab.

Gombart and his colleagues that the ability of immune system cells to fight a staph infection was increased a thousand fold. In particular, the team revealed that the high dose vitamin helped battle staph infections that are resistant to antibiotics – possibly paving the way to a new avenue of attack against such ‘superbugs’.

"This is potentially very significant, although we still need to do human studies,"​ said Gombart. "Antibiotics are wonder drugs, but they face increasing problems with resistance by various types of bacteria, especially Staphylococcus aureus.”

The team said differences between blood cultures that received vitamin B3 and those left ‘untreated’ dishes indicates a dramatic inhibition caused by the presence of the vitamin.

Gombart revealed that when niacin was applied to human blood, the vitamin triggered an immune system attack on the bacteria in a matter of hours. 

"This could give us a new way to treat staph infections that can be deadly, and might be used in combination with current antibiotics,"​ he suggested. "It's a way to tap into the power of the innate immune system and stimulate it to provide a more powerful and natural immune response."

However, there is no evidence yet that normal diets or conventional-strength supplements of vitamin B3 would have any beneficial effect in preventing or treating bacterial infection, said Gombart – who added that people should not start taking high doses of the vitamin.

Study details

The research team explained that the ‘megadose’ of B3 given to the mice and used in the blood cultures – 250 mg per kg – is ‘far beyond’ what a normal diet would provide. However they noted that such amounts have already been used safely in human supplementation studies.

The high dose B3 increased the numbers and efficacy of ‘neutrophil’ immune cells – specialised white blood cells that can kill and eat harmful bacteria.

Gombart and his colleagues revealed that one of the most common and serious of Staphylococcal infections, methicillin-resistant S. Aureus (MRSA) was tested as part of the study – finding that when added to human blood the high dose vitamin appeared to wipe out the infection in only a few hours

Source: Journal of Clinical Investigation
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1172/JCI62070
“C/EBPε mediates nicotinamide-enhanced clearance of Staphylococcus aureus in mice”
Authors: Pierre Kyme, Nils H. Thoennissen, Ching Wen Tseng,Gabriela B. Thoennissen, Andrea J. Wolf, et al

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