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There is a potential new role for vitamin B3 or niacin: high doses can help boost the power of immune cells to kill antibiotic resistant bacteria by a factor of 1,000. Recent studies at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, UCLA and other institutions reported that megadoses of B3 can increase the numbers of white blood cells called neutrophils, as well as their ability to destroy bad bugs.
The doses used in the investigations were much higher than amounts normally consumed in the diet, but similar doses have been used carefully as drugs, the researchers said. Among the bacteria targeted in the study was methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), a pathogen that can cause potentially life-threatening illnesses.
The new approach has not yet been tested in humans, but it has worked effectively in the lab and in animals. In tests using infected human blood, B3 helped clear staph infections within a few hours. The amounts of B3 found in commercial dietary supplements are not high enough to have this effect, and the researchers cautioned against taking large doses on your own.
If this research works in human studies, the new findings may position niacin as an alternative or adjunct to the use of antibiotics, which are becoming less effective as bacteria develop resistance to them.