MILLIONS of endometriosis sufferers may soon see their agony come to an end, thanks to scientists who claim to have found a potential cure.
Experts at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis say that they’ve found an antibiotic which can reduce the size of lesions caused by the condition.
So far, they’ve only tested it out on mice but it’s hoped that human trials will result in similar findings.
They’re now planning a large clinical trial to test out metronidazole in women who have endometriosis.
Scientists found that mice who were fed the antibiotic saw the size of endometriosis-related lesions in the gut reduce in size.
Antibiotic works regardless of disease progression
And that was true whether they received the treatment before the lesions formed or after the endometriosis was well-established.
That may mean that there’s a potential cure or way of reversing the condition regardless of how long someone’s had it.
Experts also found that bacteria in the gut microbiome may help drive, or prevent, progression of the disease.
A “cost-effective treatment”
“Our initial goal was to understand how these gut bacteria, or microbiota, might be connected to endometriosis, but in the process, we may have found a cost-effective treatment,” said principal investigator Dr Ramakrishna Kommagani.
Up to one in ten women has the chronic condition, and although having it might not necessarily up your risk of womb cancer or cervical cancer, the new findings do suggest that ovarian cancer might be more of a risk.
They can wait up to seven years to receive a diagnosis for the condition that can leave sufferers infertile.
This is a silent epidemic in that often women think they are just having cramping during their menstrual cycles
Dr Ramakrishna Kommagani
Women are often misdiagnosed with IBS, cystitis, PCOS, fibromyalgia, appendicitis or food intolerances before they’re eventually told about endometriosis.
Women who have inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to develop endometriosis but this new study has found that some of the gut microbes linked to bowel problems also play a massive role in endometriosis.
Symptoms of endometriosis
Endometriosis is where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body.
Each month, these cells react in the same way to those in the womb – building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.
That can lead to infertility, fatigue, bowel and bladder problems, as well as really heavy, painful periods.
It affects one in ten women in the UK.
- Painful, heavy, or irregular periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Painful bowel movements
The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.
According to Endometriosis UK, it takes over seven years on average for women to finally receive a diagnosis.
It’s estimated that up to 50 per cent of infertile women has the condition.
Source: Endometriosis UK
When mice were treated with the antibiotic metronidazole, the lesions became smaller and inflammation was reduced.
Other antibiotics, however, didn’t do anything to reduce inflammation or shrink lesions.
Gut bacteria is linked to endometriosis
And the team also found that a good type of gut bacteria was really low in mice with endometriosis, so they concluded that as well as taking the antibiotic, women may be advised to take a probiotic to boost their levels.
“This study is exciting as it opens new frontiers in identifying bacterial candidates that can promote endometriosis in reproductive-age women, and it enables us to conduct future studies aimed at developing simpler ways to diagnose endometriosis,” said co-author Dr Indira Mysorekar.
“How healthy your gut is affects your disease burden,” Dr Kommagani said.
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“What you eat can affect the bacteria in the gut, and that can promote endometriosis, so it’s important to have healthy habits and to make sure you are harboring good bacteria so you won’t get the disease and the pain associated with it.
“This is a silent epidemic in that often women think they are just having cramping during their menstrual cycles,” he added.
“It’s only when the pain reaches a point where they can’t handle it — and it’s not contained within the cycle – that many realize something else is going on.”
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