Health Blog

Of enzymes and diarrhea

Research shows promise for anti-diarrhea treatments without side effects

December 13, 2010

Diarrhea: a source of annoying commercials, silly schoolyard rhymes, and, often, embarrassment.

But while many of us find diarrhea to be quite humorous, it is actually a major health concern, particularly in developing countries. In fact, each year diarrhea kills 1.5 million children around the world and is second only to pneumonia in causing the death of children under 5 years old, according to the World Health Organization. Surprising, isn’t it?

Although there are anti-diarrhea treatments available, like Imodium, they aren’t always effective. Additionally, medications may have a range of side effects, such as vomiting, stomach pains and fatigue—it really makes you wonder if it’s just better to endure liquid stools for a few days.

New research at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, however, has discovered that the enzyme hydroxylase could be targeted to develop drugs to prevent diarrhea, without any aggravating side effects. Hydroxylase is important to the body’s management of water and salt movement in the intestines.

The research, published in October in The FASEB Journal, looked at how obstructing hydroxylase with the inhibitor dimethyloxallyl glycine (check out this imaginative video game analogy) affected mice with allergic diarrhea. Researchers found that only one in five mice developed severe diarrhea after being treated with the chemical. They also found that the treatment didn’t result in any overt side effects. Wonderful!

But keep in mind that this is a mouse study, so more research is needed before companies can develop drugs for human use.

Until then, keep tanking the pink stuff. And you may want to think about putting your children on a yogurt diet, as another, widely reported study has shown that probiotics or prebiotics may have some potential for treating viral diarrhea in kids.

We can only hope that with continuing research, diarrhea will someday cease being a health concern… yet remain something we can all laugh about.

About the Author

Joseph Castro

Joseph Castro has a B.S. in physics and a certificate in professional writing from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. As an undergraduate he hunted for extra-solar planets but found that research was not for him, leading him away from the telescope and to the pen. Joseph has written about science for the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program and is excited to spread out to other venues and share his love of science with the rest of the world.



Angus Thomson says:

What about plain old zinc? It doesn’t get much simpler or cheaper, and is recommended by the WHO and UNICEF.

pharmacist says:

What a great resource!

There is apparently good evidence that some strains of probiotic bacteria can be used to treat kids with infectious diarrhea to prevent viral diarrhea and urogenital infections for example yeast infections. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor about which strain of bacteria and which dose to use. The concentrations of probiotics that is found in most foods is likely to low to be of much good.

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