Study Hints Gut Microbiome Plays A Role in Multiple Sclerosis

The investigators found that the average abundance of Methanobrevibacter was seven times greater in patients with MS than in the control group, but not every MS patient had the bacteria. Methanobrevibacter has been increasingly linked to multiple inflammatory states, but its ability to drive immune responses is not well understood, according to Dr. Jangi.

“Methanobrevibacter also live in the healthy gut, but they seem to be increased in MS patients,” he said. “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.”

The investigators also found that the average abundance of Butyricimonas was three times lower in untreated patients with MS than in healthy controls. But the levels of Butyricimonas in treated patients and healthy controls did not differ significantly, suggesting that treatment has an effect on this bacteria.

The possible role of Butyricimonas in the immune system is better understood. When Butyricimonas digests dietary fiber, butyrate is produced. Butyrate influences the production of regulatory T cells in the gut (Nature 2013;504:446-450). Previous studies have shown that patients with autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease have lower levels of butyrate-producing bacteria (Rev Diabet Stud 2012;9:251-259; Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser 2014;79:29-39). “Butyrate probably helps to dampen the immune response,” Dr. Jangi said.

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