Researchers find gut bacteria, MS link

July 13, 2016

In a new study, researchers detected clear evidence of changes that tie together bacteria living in the gut and immunological disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital found that people with MS have different patterns of gut microorganisms than those of their healthy counterparts. In addition, patients receiving treatment for MS have different patterns than untreated patients.

Investigators used data and samples from subjects who are part of the CLIMB (Comprehensive Longitudinal Investigation of Multiple Sclerosis) study at Brigham and Women's Hospital. The team analyzed stool samples from 60 people with MS and 43 control subjects, performing gene sequencing to detect differences in the microbial communities of the subjects.

Samples from MS patients contained higher levels of certain bacterial species – including Methanobrevibacter and Akkermansia– and lower levels of others – such as Butyricimonas – when compared to healthy samples. Other studies have found that several of these microorganisms may drive inflammation or are associated with autoimmunity. Importantly, the team also found that microbial changes in the gut were related with changes in the activity of genes that play a role in the immune system.

The team also collected breath samples from subjects, finding that, as a result of increased levels of Methanobrevibacter, patients with MS had higher levels of methane in their breath samples. The researchers also investigated the gut microbe communities of untreated MS patients, finding that MS disease-modifying therapy appeared to normalize the gut microbiomes of MS patients.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

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