Gut Bacterium Implicated in Multiple Sclerosis Development

Internal Medicine World Report, January 2015,

According to findings presented at the 2014 Probiotics Throughout the Lifespan Symposium, there may be a relationship between 2 types of gut bacterium and multiple sclerosis (MS) development.

According to findings presented at the 2014 Probiotics Throughout the Lifespan Symposium, there may be a relationship between 2 types of gut bacterium and multiple sclerosis (MS) development.

Although previous studies tied gut microbiome to autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and (IBD) rheumatoid arthritis, this is the first study to implicate its role in human MS patients.

“MS has more in common with inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and some of the other immune diseases than neurodegenerative diseases,” Sushrut Jangi, MD, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study’s leader said to Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News. “In all of those autoimmune diseases, the immune system is attacking its own tissues because it has been activated by some bacteria, virus or environmental trigger.”

For their study, Jangi and his colleagues gathered fecal samples from 61 and 43 MS and health patients, respectively. Of the 61 included participants with MS, 19 patients were not treated for their condition, 21 were using interferon β-1a, 2 were taking interferon β-1b, 18 were on glatiramer acetate and 1 person was prescribed natalizumab.

In doing so, the investigators noticed MS patients had Methanobrevibacter levels 7 times higher than their healthy counterparts. However, their levels did not correlate with how often they experienced a worsening of their symptoms, Jangi told Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News.

Methanobrevibacter also live in the healthy gut, but they seem to be increased in MS patients,” Jangi also said to Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News. “Is that because in MS, the gut is not working that well that it lets the Methanobrevibacter grow more readily or is the bug somehow associated with causing the disease? It is a chicken-and-egg problem.”

Moving forward, the team plans to test their findings on a larger group of 250 patients. Jangi appeared to be interested in seeing what these findings mean for the “biology of the patient”.