Gut Microbiome: Studying the links between people, bacteria, and MS

Gut Microbiome: Studying the links between people, bacteria, and MS

Our bodies are made of billions of cells. However, the cells in our bodies are far outnumbered by the bacteria that cover our skin and inhabit our gut. These bacteria are now increasingly recognized to have an important role in maintaining our health. For example, skin bacteria help protect us from more dangerous bacteria that could invade us. Gut bacteria help digest our food. There are suggestions that changes in these bacteria, particularly those in the gut, might play a role in several diseases. For example, there are differences in the types of bacteria in the guts of obese people compared to those of normal weight and changing these bacteria can alter obesity, at least in mice.

At a recent presentation at the ECTRIMS meeting, the gut microbiome (the numbers and types of bacteria that inhabit the gut) was discussed. There is evidence from animal models of MS that the gut microbiome might have an influence on the immune system and the ability of the immune system to attack the brain. This evidence is now being extended to human studies. The first step is to try to determine which bacteria inhabit the gut of healthy people compared to that of people with various diseases including MS. This is a very difficult task because many of the bacteria that inhabit our gut cannot be grown in the laboratory. Recent advances in DNA sequencing are now being harnessed to help identify these bacteria. With this technique, bacteria do not need to be grown in the laboratory in order to identify them. Rather, the genes in these bacteria can be sequenced and used to identify which organisms are present. This technique has now been used to detect many new species of bacteria that had previously been unknown. Several studies are now being conducted around the world aimed at determining differences in the bacteria of healthy people and those with diseases, including MS.

As this research progresses, the gut bacteria of many people will need to be studied to determine which bacteria differ between normal people and patients with disease. These differences will then need to be further studied to identify which might contribute to causing a disease rather than which might be the result of the disease. Finally, studies will then need to be conducted to see whether altering these bacteria might have an effect on the disease. These studies are in their earliest phases, but it is exciting to think about the interaction between people, bacteria and diseases. This will be an important field to follow in the coming years, with the potential to alter the way we look at many diseases and the treatment of these, including MS.

Comments
James D. Bowen, MD
Now that flu season is upon us, we are getting a lot of questions about the relationship between MS and infections, including influenza. MS does not impair the ability to fight off infections. Likewise, most of the treatments for MS do not impair the ability to fight infections, though there are a few exceptions to this. Most people with MS will therefore not be at any higher risk of colds or flu than the general population. However, infections may affect the MS. People with MS have an increased risk of having an MS attack at the time of infections, including colds, flu, pneumonia, bladder infections, etc. Some have estimated that about 1 out of 10 infections will be accompanied by an MS attack. Likewise, for every MS attack about 1 in 10 will be preceded by an infection. This means that about 90% of MS attacks occur in the absence of an infection.

Another important question is the role of vaccination in MS. In general, vaccinations do not seem to cause MS attacks. Because the vaccinations do not usually cause MS attacks, but the flu can cause an MS attack about 1 in 10 times, most neurologists recommend that MS patients receive the influenza vaccine. It is important to discuss with your doctor whether vaccination is right for you. More information is available on our website at http://www.swedish.org/Services/Neuroscience-Institute/Neuroscience-Services/Multiple-Sclerosis/Alternative-Treatments/Vaccination-Handout-for-Patients
1/13/2014 10:32:53 AM
Kathy Wright
I'm not finished. I went for a nerve conduction test today. I didn't feel a thing, completely numb. The Dr. Is sending me for a ms brain and spine MRI ASAP as he says I have no peripheral nerve damage. I feel like the bacteria I got earlier has everything to do with whatever is triggered now. I'm worried it's MS and my Dr says that is what he is testing for and a brain tumor. I want to get started ASAP with the best of Dr and treatment. I saw your research article on bacteria and had to write and share my gut feeling on how I haven't felt decent since my experience. Both of the Drs. I've seen don't comment or seem to know if there is a bacteria connection or not. Hopefully, I will understand more soon. Thankyou.
1/8/2014 5:34:07 PM
Kathy Wright
November 8,2013 I got a bacteria that caused a terrible bout of diarrhea. After a stool sample I was told I had an Aeromonas Veronii bacteria causing the problem. Two weeks after the diarrhea wouldn't stop I went to the ER for hydration and potassium. The diarrhea stopped. I was extremely weak and tired which everyone told me was normal. I've never been so exhausted. By November 21 I had a internal pain on my left hip which felt like an abscess. At about that time I started losing feeling in my right foot, then leg and now has progressed to under my arm. I can feel light touch but no hot or cold or prickly pokes like I can on my left side. I noticed the difference in sensation by not feeling hot shower water. Then January 1 I got another abscess feeling hurting pain under my rib cage on now my left side. I am, a week later weak in both my hands and arms. The pain on my left side is still there but going away like it did on my hip earlier. I feel like I have a moving abscess attacking and leaving damage behind. T
1/8/2014 5:23:35 PM
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