This article serves the sole purpose to impress Sylvie Coyaud, my personal hero and a veteran science journalist based in Milan. Sylvie wrote a lot about the cancerous quack Marco Ruggiero and his insane GcMAF “cures” against all possible incurable diseases, a therapy which somehow involves a magic yogurt.
I humbly submit here another magic yogurt cure. Also from Italy. Also aimed at Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative malaises. And this time, promoted by the highest Italian science authority.
So here it is. Italian scientists, mostly from the Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (IBBC-CNR) in Monterotondo, Rome, and funded by a never-before-heard-of pharma company from Milan, discovered a preventive treatment for various brain diseases, and it’s a kind of probiotic yoghurt, with 8 bifidobacteria and lactobacilli strains, dried into a powder and soon to be marketed as Ottabac. Here is their study in mice:
Carla Petrella, Georgios Strimpakos, Alessio Torcinaro, Silvia Middei, Valentina Ricci, Giorgio Gargari, Diego Mora, Francesca De Santa, Stefano Farioli-Vecchioli Proneurogenic and neuroprotective effect of a multi strain probiotic mixture in a mouse model of acute inflammation: involvement of the gut-brain axis Pharmacological Research (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2021.105795
A press release by the mothership of the Rome institute, the Italian National Research Council (CNR) somehow went offline, but here is a quote from its archived version, Google-translated from Italian:
“The neuro-inflammatory processes that arise as a result of infections, head trauma and due to ageing can significantly alter brain function, with a negative impact on cognitive processes and memory. In this context, a team of researchers from the Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology of the National Research Council (Cnr-Ibbc), conducted a study published in the journal Pharmacological Research. “It has long been known that the bilateral interaction between the intestinal bacterial flora and the brain, the so-called gut-microbiome-brain axis, plays a fundamental role in the modulation of systemic inflammatory processes, with consequent repercussions on the central nervous system. The regulation of intestinal bacterial flora through the intake of live bacterial strains, probiotics, therefore represents a very promising approach in the prevention and treatment of numerous diseases “, explains Stefano Farioli Vecchioli, who is part of the Gut-Brain Microbioma Group (Gbm Group) together with Carla Petrella, Francesca De Santa, Georgios Strimpakos, authors of the study financed by Beingpharma srl.”
The authors are so smart, they swapped their own first names with surnames when submitting the manuscript, and the Italian chief editor of Pharmacological Research (Impact Factor 7.5) didn’t notice either. The CNR press release continues:
“Our in vivo work has shown that the intake for 15 days of a new mix of eight live bacterial strains (OttaBac) is able to protect and counteract, in a mouse model, the inflammatory processes affecting the brain and the intestine undergoing an acute infection caused by bacterial endotoxins. Furthermore, this research demonstrates for the first time that the mix of probiotics induces a significant increase in hippocampal neurogenesis, the process of producing new neurons capable of regulating hippocampus-dependent learning and memory mechanisms ”, continues Farioli Vecchioli.”
The authors declare to have no conflicts of interest whatsoever, but they mention that “This study was funded by Beingpharma s.r.l, who also provided both the OttaBac product and the placebo”. Thing is, the Milan-registered Beingpharma seems to be a decoy, a shell company, because the brand name Ottabac belongs since February 2021 to the Rome-based company Actial Farmaceutica (once named CD Investments). This company sells via its subsidiary VSL Pharmaceutics (which is the only Actial incarnation with an internet presence) the probiotic supplement named VSL#3, you can buy it all over the world, in pharmacies and online. Its description fits that of Ottabac, and the Petrella et al 2021 paper admits those are the same: “OttaBac is a multi-strain formulation which is a blend of 8 strains belonging to the above species , .”
The latter of these two cited VSL#3 papers mentions that Diego Mora is “in the Scientific Advisory Board of Actial Farmaceutica SRL”, so we now caught at least one of the Petrella et al 2021 authors lying about his absence of a financial conflict of interests.
VSL#3 is usually being peddled by Actial-sponsored researcher as a therapy for gastrointestinal issues (with over 300 papers on PubMed about it), there are also clinical trials, one was in Rome (NCT03415711) on ulcerative colitis, terminated for “Administrative reasons“. It seems now the gut-brain axis was activated to boost the Actial supplement business, congrats to Drs Mora, Farioli Vecchioli and the rest of the team.
Another Actial scientific advisory board member is Antonio Gasbarrini, a medicine professor in Rome who claimed in Petito et al 2020 that the VSL#3 supplement “promotes gut health“. Same Gasbarrini was running as academic editor of a borderline predatory Verduci Editore journal-shaped outlet a joint venture with Chinese paper mills. After the scam was exposed by Smut Clyde, Gasbarrini placed himself as the hero of research integrity (“Lies have Short Legs“), thanking “the crucial work of Dr. Elisabeth Bik“.
It is not clear why VSL#3 was rebranded OttaBac and a shell company Beingpharma was created to funnel the cash from Actial to
greedy enterprising researchers. Maybe the VSL reputation was dented, maybe this charade was needed to cover new disease markets, like dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases of old age. But what is this Actial company which is so generously bribing funding scientists in Italy, China, India and elsewhere?
An internet search reveals that Actial/VSL won a lawsuit in Rome against its former CEO and founder Claudio De Simone over the misappropriation of the VSL#3 cultures, which De Simone claimed to have invented (there were also other lawsuits in UK and in USA). The London court files from 2016 narrate the history of OttaBac/VSL#3:
“The Professor [De Simone] claims that he is the owner of valuable confidential information concerning the growth, analysis and precise mix of these eight strains.
3. Some 15 years ago the Professor entered into a joint venture agreement with Paolo and Claudio Cavazza, who were wealthy Italian businessmen. Claudio Cavazza has since died. One of the main purposes of this joint venture agreement was to exploit the Product. The Professor was responsible for its
composition and the Cavazza brothers were responsible for its funding, distribution and sale. The Cavazza brothers had considerable experience in the pharmaceutical sector and were, at the material time, majority shareholders in
the Sigma Tau group of research based pharmaceutical companies with over 2500 employees across the world.
4. For reasons which are not material to the present dispute, the Cavazza brothers and the Professor did not want the Product to be sold through the Sigma Tau group so they set up a new joint venture company referred to as “CD Luxembourg”. It is owned by various companies which represent the interests of the Cavazza family and the Professor.”
CD Luxembourg later became CD Investments, from the beginning it owned Actial, VSL and another one, CD India.
The new CEO named in the press release is Luca Guarna, who actually owns an accounting business in Milan. One can be forgiven for thinking that Guarna does not really run the Actial shop, but merely fronts for the real Italian owners of who prefer to remain unknown (I couldn’t even find out if the other Cavazza brother, Paolo, is still alive). The official seat of all these yoghurt supplement companies is Viale Shakespeare 47 in Rome, which looks on Google StreetView like a multi-story apartment house, with a bunch of other businesses registered there, many likely just letterboxes.
One of these companies, unsurprisingly, is a franchise of Cavazza’s main pharma business Sigma Tau, which is now named Alpha Sigma. You see how obscure and twisted all this yoghurt business is, so maybe not rush trusting the Petrella et al 2021 paper’s authors that they indeed have no financial conflicts of interest.
Neither Farioli-Vecchioli nor CNR replied to explain any possible omissions and obfuscations.
Can I humbly propose to try Ottabac against COVID-19? I’m sure the Cavazza company will pay these studies with pleasure.