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07 July 2016 - Nutraingredients - Scientists connect gut microbiota disruption with multiple sclerosis onset

Will Chiu

Gastro dysbiosis has been implicated in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) as a study continues to lay bare the gut microbiota’s influence on a range of chronic conditions.

Gastro dysbiosis has been implicated in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) as a study continues to lay bare the gut microbiota’s influence on a range of chronic conditions.  

An analysis of faecal matter from MS patients revealed a distinct microbial community profile compared to a healthy control group.

In particular, increased numbers of the Psuedomonas, Mycoplana, Haemophilus, Blautia, and Dorea genera species in MS patients were recorded.

Meanwhile healthy individuals showed increased numbers of Parabacteroides, Adlercreutzia and Prevotella genera.

The findings equip researchers with further understanding into the mechanisms certain bacteria follow to exert a detrimental or beneficial effect on the body.

Although the researchers were unable to say whether their observations were the cause or effect, a larger study in the future, which may ascertain this, could provide a focus of a treatment for MS.

Future research direction

While the findings of the study would need to be confirmed in a larger patient population, Mangalam thought it reasonable to believe that a food supplement or the transfer of a bacterial community might be a potential treatment option for MS.

“Major questions need to be asked though as to whether a cocktail of known beneficial bacteria is given to the host or whether a faecal transplant is performed,” he said. “There are lots of technical and regulatory issues regarding faecal transplantation.”

“More research is needed to determine if faecal transplants are a safe and effective treatment option for MS.”

MS prevalence

Western societies have reported an increased incidence of diseases with an autoimmune or allergic component, including MS.

According to the Atlas of MS — a collaboration between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) — MS prevalence was greatest  in Europe with a rate of 80 cases per 100 000 individuals.

In this study, researchers from the University of Iowa, began by comparing the faecal microbiota in 31 MS patients matched to 36 healthy controls on age and gender criteria.

DNS sequence profiles of the gut microbial communities were produced using tag sequencing of a specialised region located on the 16S ribosomal RNA gene.

“Although preliminary, our data suggest that patients with MS have reduced levels of good bacteria responsible for overall benefits obtained from consuming healthy foods," said Dr Ashutosh Mangalam, lead author of the study and assistant professor of pathology at the University of Iowa.  

Mechanisms of action

He proposed a mechanism in which the gut microbiome might influence autoimmune diseases, via regulation of the immune response.

“This hypothesis is supported by germ-free mice, which do not develop a proper immune system,” explained Mangalam.

“Another would be the transplant of single or mixture of defined gut flora, which can restore the immune system in germ-free mice,” he added.

“Therefore,” said Mangalam, “the microbiome and their metabolites can regulate immune homeostasis in the healthy state while dysbiosis might cause disturbance of the same and predisposition to developing autoimmune diseases such as MS.”