Vitamin B3 Defends Body Against Antibiotic-Resistant Staph Infections
August 28, 2012

Vitamin B3 Defends Body Against Antibiotic-Resistant Staph Infections

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Like fruits and vegetables, vitamins are considered necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. And scientists have long worked to study the effects of vitamin consumption. In particular, researchers recently discovered that nicotinamide, known also as vitamin B3, could help defend against antibiotic-resistant staph infections that are found more and more throughout the globe; these infections are seen as a public health danger as they have already killed thousands of people.

The research was conducted by scientists from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU), the University of California at Los Angeles, as well as other organizations. They found that high doses of the vitamin could improve the power of immune cells to eliminate staph bacteria by about 1,000 times. The findings were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and the scientists believe that the results show that the vitamin could be used against these “superbugs.”

"This is potentially very significant, although we still need to do human studies," remarked Adrian Gombart, an associate professor in OSU's Linus Pauling Institute, in a prepared statement. "Antibiotics are wonder drugs, but they face increasing problems with resistance by various types of bacteria, especially Staphylococcus aureus."

The scientists pooled the information from completing the study with laboratory animals and human blood.

"This could give us a new way to treat staph infections that can be deadly, and might be used in combination with current antibiotics," continued Gombart. "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."

Through the study, the investigators discovered that clinical doses of vitamin B3 improvement the effectiveness of “neutrophils,” a particular type of white blood cells that is able to eliminate and consume adverse bacteria. Past research by Gombart suggested that nicotinamide had the power to “turn on” particular antimicrobial genes that could allow immune cells to eliminate bacteria.

To find these results, the scientists used megadoses, otherwise known as therapeutic levels, of nicotinamide. The amount of vitamin B3 was much more than what a normal diet would have included, but the amounts have been deemed as safe for medical situations related to humans. On the other hand, it is not yet clear if normal diets or normal-strength supplements of vitamin B3 would prove to have any benefits in limiting or treating bacterial infection; as such, the researchers recommend that, at this time, individuals should not increase their consumption of the vitamin. Researchers also believe that the increased use of antibiotics has heightened the spread of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), a type of staph infection.

Overall, scientists believe that the use of vitamin B3 could possibly lower the dependence on antibiotics.

"This vitamin is surprisingly effective in fighting off and protecting against one of today's most concerning public health threats,” explained co-senior study author Dr. George Liu, an infectious disease expert at Cedars-Sinai, in a prepared statement.

The study was supported through funding from the National Institutes of Health.