Gut Bacteria Role in Multiple Sclerosis Treatment?

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Sep 21 2015 - 8:24am
gut bacteria in multiple sclerosis treatment

New research suggests that an imbalance in gut bacteria may play a role not only in the development of multiple sclerosis, but in prevention and treatment of the disease as well. The study was conducted by a team of experts from various institutions in Japan, where the number of people being diagnosed with MS has been growing.

Numerous investigators have been exploring the role of gut bacteria or gut microbiota (formerly called gut flora) in multiple sclerosis. Gut microbiota refers to the population of microbes that live in the intestinal tract, which includes at least 1,000 different species of bacteria.

As a quick aside, it's worth noting that gut microbiota are being studied extensively and appear to be critically important in many areas of health. Some of them include heart health, type 2 diabetes, Crohns disease, and even mental health. Multiple sclerosis could be another.

Gut bacteria and multiple sclerosis

In rodent models of MS (which involve experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; EAE), researchers have noted that changes in the gut microbiota could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis. In human studies, experts also have shown that certain bacteria (i.e., Clostridia clusters XIVa and IV and Bacteroides fragilis) are capable of suppressing inflammatory conditions such as EAE.

In a February 2015 review of nutrition and MS, the authors pointed out that certain dietary and lifestyle habits, including “exercise and low-calorie diets based on the assumption of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, prebiotics, and probiotics [beneficial bacteria]” have been shown to “downregulate the synthesis of proinflammatory molecules, and restore or maintain a healthy symbiotic gut microbiota.”

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Given this and other background on gut microbiota and multiple sclerosis, the authors of the latest study evaluated the microbiotia of 20 Japanese adults with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, 40 healthy Japanese individuals, and an additional group of 18 healthy adults. The analyses were conducted on fecal samples from the participants.

The individuals with multiple sclerosis had moderate imbalance (dysbiosis) of their gut microbiota. Specifically, the authors found 21 species of bacteria that showed significant differences in relative abundance when compared with the other two groups of volunteers.

The most notable differences were species belong to Clostridia clusters XIVa and IV and Bacteroidetes. Closer examination revealed that many of the clostridial species associated with multiple sclerosis may be different from those generally associated with autoimmune diseases.

Overall, the researchers suggested that “correcting the dysbiosis and altered gut microbiota might deserve consideration as a potential strategy for the prevention and treatment of MS.” These findings also suggest that taking probiotics and/or including fermented foods in the diet may be beneficial for people living with multiple sclerosis, as the beneficial bacteria may help in correcting any imbalance of gut microbiota.

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