Microbiome Connections to Disease Get Stronger

Posted by: | September 19, 2023 | Comments

In the pipeline: Derek Lowe’s commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry. An editorially independent blog from the publishers of Science Translational Medicine.

A fair amount of what you read about the human microbiome is hype. There’s no way around it. It’s quite difficult to study this area in a meaningful, reproducible way, and even the best work in the area can only go so far, as things stand now. When differences in (say) gut flora are actually found and worked out, we generally don’t know what the chicken-and-egg relationship between that and human disease might be, or which particular bacteria (or ratio, or blend) is responsible, in either direction.

But just because an area is difficult, or because it has a lot of media noise in it, doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made. There’s some new work, for example, that suggests that the gut microbiome might have a real connection to multiple sclerosis. That sounds like an exercise in headline-grabbing, but it looks more solid than that. This team found several bacterial types associated with MS, following up on numerous earlier studies, specifically noting that relapsing/remitting MS patients tend to have higher proportions of Acinetobacter (generally rare in gut flora) and Akkermansia, and lower proportions of Parabacteroides. The enhanced species, when put into other animals via fecal transplant, have very noticeable effects on T-cell differentiation and also exacerbate the pathology seen in the widely used EAE rodent model of the disease. The authors also note that one of the Acinetobacter species has already been shown in the literature to produce peptides that mimic sequences in myelin basic protein, which makes you wonder if MS is (at least partly) a misfiring immune response to gut bacteria in general.

Read the Rest at: ScienceTranslational Medicine

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