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Gut Bacteria and Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers have recently made some intriguing discoveries about the intestinal microbiome of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). In this new study, researchers collected foecal samples from 168 MS patients and 43 healthy control patients. The study excluded patients who had recently used antibiotics or probiotics, recently had gastroenteritis, or had a history of inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or bowel surgery.

There were no significant differences in dietary patterns between patients with MS and control patients. About 13% of the MS and 24% of the control groups had a history of vegetarian dieting, 52% of both groups had high milk consumption, and 67% of the MS and 48% of control groups had a high level of yogurt consumption.

The analysis found differences between the 2 groups at the genus and species level; specifically, patients with MS were highly enriched for archaea, regardless of treatment. Archaea are separate from bacteria and eukaryotes and, in the human gut, are dominated by Methanobrevibacter smithii, which make up 10% of colonic anaerobes in the gut.
Apparently, the cell wall and lipid membranes of M. smithii make them strongly immunogenic, which is consistent with a role in the induction of local and systemic inflammatory processes in the host.
The study found that patients with MS who had higher levels of M. smithii had significantly increased Expanded Disability Status Scale scores and a trend toward longer disease duration (compared with patients with MS who had lower levels).

The researchers also found 2 organisms with anti-inflammatory properties that were lower in MS vs control patients and that increased with treatment.

The researchers also outlined differences in gut microbes associated with other autoimmune diseases. For example, patients with new-onset rheumatoid arthritis are enriched for Prevotella copri, and in inflammatory bowel disease, bacteria that produce butyrate are depleted.

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Source: American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 66th Annual Meeting: Abstract S24.001. Presented Wednesday April 30, 2014. 

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