Two teams of scientists have found compelling evidence that link intestinal bacteria to multiple sclerosis or MS. This is an incurable autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue, cognitive problems, and an inability to control basic motor functions. These happen after the immune system starts attacking the myelin coating of nerve fibers.
Scientists observed that people with MS have an unusually high number of gut microbes. They also noted that these bacteria changed white blood cells in a way that made the blood cells more likely to attack other healthy cells in the body.
The Possible Link Between Gut Bacteria and MS Explained
Two new studies further strengthened the case for a possible link between gut microbes and patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The first study compared the microbiomes of 71 MS patients and 71 healthy subjects. Akkermansia and Acinetobacter bacteria were rarely present in healthy subjects, but common in the patients with the disease.
Acinetobacter are very similar to proteins found in myelin. This led UCSF scientists to the conclusion that the possible connection indicates “a previously unknown environmental contributor to MS.”
Researchers from Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology conducted the second study. This observed 34 pairs of twins where only one twin was stricken with the disease. The team of scientists transplanted gut microbes from the twins into mice. Observations revealed that the rodents which received microbiome from their twin with the disease also developed MS.
These research results may now open up the possibility for microbiome therapy. Furthermore, probiotics may be used to rapidly grow gut bacteria that can negate the bacteria responsible for white blood cells attacking the myelin sheath of neurons.
Despite the landmark nature of these studies, it is still too early to conclude that there is a definitive link between gut bacteria and the autoimmune disorder. Much more research and tests are required to develop a cure or preventative strategy that can then be tested on patients.
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