Persistence of Gulf War illness (GWI) pathology among deployed veterans is a clinical challenge even after almost three decades. Recent studies show a higher prevalence of obesity and metabolic disturbances among Gulf War veterans primarily due to the existence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic fatigue, sedentary lifestyle, and consumption of a high-carbohydrate/high-fat diet. We test the hypothesis that obesity from a Western-style diet alters host gut microbial species and worsens gastrointestinal and neuroinflammatory symptom persistence. We used a 5 month Western diet feeding in mice that received prior Gulf War (GW) chemical exposure to mimic the home phase obese phenotype of the deployed GW veterans. The host microbial profile in the Western diet-fed GWI mice showed a significant decrease in butyrogenic and immune health-restoring bacteria. The altered microbiome was associated with increased levels of IL6 in the serum, Claudin-2, IL6, and IL1β in the distal intestine with concurrent inflammatory lesions in the liver and hyperinsulinemia.
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