What happens when you eat too many sweets? You get a stomachache, right? And what about when you have food poisoning? The same thing, right? So it sounds perhaps more than a little weird that sugar might be the key to fixing gastrointestinal problems, and yet this could very well be the case.

A new study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) found that salmonella infections occur when the pathogen uses fucose, a common sugar in the body (not to be confused with fructose, the ingredient we find listed on many of our food and drink labels) to become stronger and make its way into the host’s body.

Fucose plays an important role in the human gut’s microbiome, and the level of fucose we have in our bodies might favor harmful pathogens like salmonella or e-coli over the helpful bacteria that are supposed to be in our guts. Over 100 trillion microorganisms live in the human gut and are responsible for an array of important tasks from immune defense to metabolism to growth and development. When an infection occurs, inflammation kills of some of these helpful bacteria, leaving extra sugar around that the pathogen can use.

Research continues into this important and interesting issue. Why is there so much extra fucose? It may also be coming from cells that ‘spill’ out sugar when they are damaged in the course of the infection and inflammation. And why fucose? The PNNL study found that salmonella used up loads of fucose and totally ignored other sugars that are normally consumed by the good bacteria. While  there are still a lot more questions that need to be answered, researchers now know that if they can eliminate the gene that causes salmonella to eat fucose, it’s going to be a lot easier to cure salmonella infections.

Read the entire article here: Sweet ‘n Sour: A Common Sugar May Help Pathogens Conquer the Human Gut