Study Connects Gut Bacteria With MS

It may seem that multiple sclerosis and bacteria found inside the stomach may have some form of connection. But researchers from the California Institute Of Technology have demonstrated such a connection between MS and gut bacteria. MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord that usually causes various levels of neurological symptoms to people who suffer from it such as loss of sensation, muscle weakness and pain as well as fatigue.

The said study was led by Sarkis K. Mazmanian, assistant professor of biology at Caltech and Yun Kyung Lee, postdoctoral scholar at Caltech. According to Mazmanian, “it seems counterintuitive that a microbe would be involved in a disease of the central nervous system, because these are sterile tissues”. But previous clinical studies and literature seem to show that microbes may play a role in MS. An example cited is that MS seem to get worse after viral infections and bacterial infections can cause an increase of MS symptoms.

Mazmanian’s lab examines the relationships between gut microbes and the immune systems of their mammalian hosts. His study on MS started by examining various Ms literature that suggested a link between bacteria and MS. One such study involved a genetically engineered strain of mice that develop experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the mice version of MS. When the mice were shipped to a cleaner biotech facility where gut bacteria populations were reduced, the mice didn’t get sick.

To further study the effect, Mazmanian and his colleagues try to induce MS in mice that were known to be devoid of bacteria that normally inhabit the animal’s digestive system. Results showed that the sterile animals did not get sick. The researchers then re-introduced gut bacteria into the germ free mice. They inoculated the mice with a specific unculturable microbe known as segmented filamentous bacteria. This type of microbe is known to induce in the gut the appearance of immune system cells known as Th17. These cells are also connected to the inflammatory cascade that leads to MS in animals.

With the re-introduction of the said gut bacteria, the previously germ-free mice with MS started to show symptoms associated with MS.

According to Mazmanian, “It definitely shows that gut microbes have a strong role in MS, because the genetics of the animals were the same. In fact, everything was the same except for the presence of those otherwise benign bacteria, which are clearly playing a role in shaping the immune system.”

“This study shows for the first time that specific intestinal bacteria have a significant role in affecting the nervous system during MS- and they do so from the gut, an anatomical location very, very far from the brain” he further adds.

Source: California Institute of Technology. “Of Bugs and Brains: Gut Bacteria Affect Multiple Sclerosis.” ScienceDaily 20 July 2010. 27 July 2010 <http://www.sciencedaily.comĀ­ /releases/2010/07/100719162643.htm>

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