Thorne: Gut bacteria variability impacts drug efficacy

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

© Marcin Klapczynski / GettyImages
© Marcin Klapczynski / GettyImages

Related tags microbiome microbiota Statins metabolites personalised

Pharma should be thinking more about the microbiome, as growing evidence reveals its significant impact on drug efficacy, a personalized nutrition expert revealed during NutraIngredients’ 2024 Probiota event.

Many drugs are metabolized by the microbiome​, indicating that the medication one believes they are taking may, in reality, may be altered by their gut bacteria,” Nathan Price, chief scientific officer at personalized wellness company Thorne, told the audience in Milan.  

“This variability underscores the need for a deeper understanding of how the microbiome influences the effectiveness and metabolism of current medications.”

The microbiome represents a vast yet largely untapped area for therapeutic development, he suggested, as the interplay between gut bacteria and health opens up novel avenues for drug discovery and development. 

He added that by leveraging insights from microbiome research, pharmaceutical companies can develop new therapies that either target the microbiome directly or are designed to work in harmony with it, enhancing their efficacy and reducing potential side effects.  

Microbiome predicts statin effect  

One example is that statins, commonly prescribed to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, can lead to varied responses. 

Price explained one of Thorne’s recent studies​ has pointed to the gut microbiome as a potential reason why.

He noted that while the mechanism is still not fully understood, research found that in some cases, people with a particular group of gut bacteria experienced twice the reduction in LDL-cholesterol compared to others. 

“This is a significant finding because it implies that the effectiveness of statins might not just be about the drug itself but also about who is taking it and the unique bacterial ecosystem within their gut,” he noted. 

Additionally, the research results suggested that certain microbiome profiles might be associated with an increased risk of diabetes when taking statins; Out of four distinct microbiome groups identified, two showed markers indicating a higher risk of developing diabetes, a known side effect of statins for some individuals.

“This burgeoning area of research opens up exciting possibilities,” Price said. “Understanding the interplay between our microbiome and medications could lead to more personalized approaches to treatment, where therapies are tailored not just to the disease but to the individual's unique microbiome.”

Next steps in research 

Commenting on the next stage in research, Price noted that how the diet and metabolites interact will continue to be of great interest.

“One of the most compelling discoveries, from our work and others, is the intricate link between our gut microbiome and the metabolites​ present in our bloodstream,” he stated. “This relationship is pivotal, revealing that the most accurate indicators of microbiome health may be these microbiome-derived metabolites.” 

To better understand these interactions, the next step will be to develop tests that can map these metabolites to provide insight into how diet influences microbiome and overall health, he noted.

This will in turn advance personalized medicine and nutrition by allowing tailored dietary recommendations based on an individual's unique microbial composition, which could lead to a future in which health recommendations are informed by genetics and microbiology.

Price referenced Thorne HealthTech’s ‘microbiome wipe’​, validated in recent research​as part of the progression towards personalized solutions. 

"The microbiome wipe is the cornerstone of our proprietary at-home test kit," he said. It offers a seamless, non-invasive, and user-friendly method for collecting fecal samples—a crucial step for increasing adoption of microbiome tests."

He explained that this user experience of collecting a sample is much more accessible than alternatives. 

The wipe is made from a polymer that dissolves in a solution provided in the kit, meaning that individuals can use the wipe like regular toilet paper, place it in the tube with the solution, and upon shaking, the wipe dissolves, releasing a salt solution that preserves the DNA for sequencing. 

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