Sun-exposed oyster mushrooms help patients fight tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the deadliest infectious diseases in low income countries, with around 1.6 million people dying of the disease each year. In a new study, researchers show that sun-exposed oyster mushrooms offer a readily available source of vitamin D that can help TB patients respond better to anti-TB drugs by improving immune response.

“TB is becoming more difficult to fight due to the emergence of drug-resistant strains, creating an urgent need for new treatments that can support first-line drugs,” said TibebeSelassie Seyoum Keflie, a doctoral fellow at University of Hohenheim, Germany. “This source of vitamin D is ideal for low income countries because mushrooms can easily be distributed and administered in a safe, low-cost, easy-to-replicate manner.”

Keflie, who performed the research with Hans Konrad Biesalski, will present the research at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, held June 8-11, 2019 in Baltimore.

Studies have shown that vitamin D induces the body to form an antimicrobial compound that attacks the bacterial cause of TB. Although sun exposure can boost a person’s vitamin D levels, it must be obtained through diet when sun exposure is scarce.

The researchers used oyster mushrooms because they offer a cheap, safe and readily available source of vitamin D that is easily absorbed by the body. Although fresh oyster mushrooms contain almost no vitamin D, the fungus produces it the after exposure to sunlight much like the human body.

“This is the first time that vitamin D derived from oyster mushrooms exposed to sun has been shown to be a potential adjunctive therapy for TB,” said Keflie. “With educational outreach, it might be possible to teach people with TB to irradiate their own mushroom for a brief period before cooking.”

For the study, the researchers gave a group of TB patients sandwich bread containing 146 micrograms of vitamin D from sun-exposed oyster mushrooms every morning during the first four months in which they received an anti-TB drug.

At the end of the four months, 95 percent of patients receiving the fortified bread were classified with the lowest TB severity score on a scale of 1 to 5. The treatment group had significantly higher vitamin D levels compared to patients not receiving the bread, with more than a third of them no longer showing a vitamin D deficiency. The researchers also observed that patients who consumed the fortified bread had significant improvements in immunological responses over the four months.

The researchers plan to carry out additional investigations on the interactions of vitamin D and immunological responses in larger and more diverse groups of TB patients. They are also developing different mushroom drying methods to determine how to achieve the highest levels of vitamin D.

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1 thought on “Sun-exposed oyster mushrooms help patients fight tuberculosis”

  1. I’m hoping that you left something out in your description of this research. You can’t compare two groups of people, one not given a supplemental bread, the other given a bread “fortified” with vitamin-D-rich mushrooms, then attribute any observed effects to the vitamin D by itself. I’m not arguing that vitamin D in that context might not have such effects, or, more reasonably, that it might not be partly responsible for such effects, assuming those are replicable. Yes, vitamin D is a wonderful substance, but I don’t think that it’s the cure for all diseases known to mankind.

    The fact is that numerous mushrooms, including oyster mushrooms, are well-documented to contain bioactive chemicals, and many of these mushrooms have been known for generations in some parts of the world as “medicinal.” Because of their association with complimentary or alternative so-called “medicine,” some in the academic community seem to frown even on considering the possibility that such mushrooms might be useful medicinally, but one could argue that a chemical is a chemical, regardless of its origin, and that bioactivity is something to be measured rather than argued about as a hypothetical.

    In other words, in the case at hand, I would suggest that the authors need to add one extra group to their comparison, so that two would be given the fortified bread, one being given bread fortified with untreated, that is, low vitamin-D mushrooms, the other being given the treated, high vitamin D mushrooms, in order to ascertain how much of the putative effects are due to the vitamin D, and how much, if any, are due to the other bioactive components in the mushrooms. Logically, one would also want to compare those results to those from groups being given vitamin D in various other formulations.

    I note that, at this moment, “oyster mushroom biological activity” [without the quote marks] gives over 19,000 results in Google Scholar, and 255 in PubMed.

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