Actually, there is a point to diarrhoea, scientists discover

Scientists with very strong stomachs have answered one of those questions we never knew we needed answered – ‘Is there a point to diarrhoea?’

Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) wanted to answer the question of whether diarrhoea is a symptom of illness – or whether it actually clears out the infection.

And while it may not be any consolation to someone suffering from it, it turns out that there actually is a purpose to the condition – at least in mice.

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Researchers found that sick mice ‘used’ diarrhoea to clear pathogens from the body – limiting the duration of the illness.

Two signalling proteins caused microscopic leaks in the intestinal wall – which let water in, making the mouse’s poo looser, and eradicating pathogens from the body.

The researchers concluded that diarrhoea has a useful role in clearing infection.

‘The hypothesis that diarrhea clears intestinal pathogens has been debated for centuries,’ said Dr Jerrold Turner of BWH.

‘Its impact on the progression of intestinal infections remains poorly understood.

‘We sought to define the role of diarrhea and to see if preventing it might actually delay pathogen clearance and prolong disease.’