AUG 30, 2017 04:49 PM PDT

Predicting Parkinson's with gut microbes

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
2 8 439

Parkinson’s disease can seriously affect your quality of life, and the disease is often very advanced once symptoms appear. That’s why it’s critical to identify a biomarker for early-stage Parkinson’s, perhaps making it possible to delay or prevent the onset of symptoms. Oddly enough (or maybe not), gut bacteria may be the answer.

Gut microbes may predict Parkinson's disease.

Image: Getty Images

Paul Wilmes and colleagues at the University of Luxembourg report that the composition of gut bacteria differs between otherwise healthy people and people with Parkinson’s disease. Wilmes wasn’t just interested in looking for a Parkinson’s biomarker, he also wanted to explore the so-called dual hit hypothesis.

This hypothesis explains that Parkinson’s begins when a person is infected with a particular pathogen both through the nose and gastrointestinal tract. This process (somehow) causes the protein alpha-synuclein to become misfolded, and the misfolded alpha-synuclein then travels through the nervous system, ultimately depositing itself in the brain and bringing about Parkinson’s disease. (That’s the idea, at least.)

For this study, the group characterized the nasal and gut microbiomes of 76 people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), 21 people with a condition called idiopathic rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (iRBD, thought to be a precursor to Parkinson’s), and 78 healthy controls.

To identify specific microbes, they performed 16S rRNA sequencing on stool and nasal wash samples. For the nasal samples, only bacteria in the genus Corynebacterium were found in all of the samples, and the compositions of the nasal and gastrointestinal samples did not appear to depend on one another.

They didn’t find any clear correlation between nasal microbes and PD symptoms, but the abundances of Akkermansia and Prevotella, were higher in samples from people with PD and iRBD than in controls. (They were highest in the PD samples.)

Interestingly, the abundances of Anaerotruncus, Clostridium XIVa, and Lachnospiraceae correlated with the presence of PD motor symptoms. Akkermansia, Anaerotruncus, and 4 other OTUs (operational taxonomic units, identified by 16S rRNA sequencing) correlated with nonmotor symptoms (such as depression).

Finally, the researchers sequenced a handful of previously unidentified OTUs. One of these was a cyanobacterium that was of lower abundance in people with PD. Curiously, some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins that have been hypothesized to cause PD, but these findings appear to argue against that.

These initial findings certainly warrant further study to help us understand the so-called gut-brain axis - if not also to identify a biomarker for Parkinson’s disease.

Sources: Movement Disorders, Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology, EurekAlert, Wikipedia

 

About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
MAY 30, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 30, 2018
'Innoculating' Newborns with Vaginal Fluids Found to be Unsafe
A lack of exposure to the vaginal canal does not account for the increased risk of later health problems for those born by C-section, researchers say.
JUL 03, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 03, 2018
Undiagnosed Zika Infections may be Causing Miscarriage and Stillbirth
Zika virus might still be impacting pregnancies.
JUL 23, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 23, 2018
Anglerfish Alert Researchers to a Third Type of Symbiosis
The light from inside the anglerfish bulb is made by bioluminescent bacteria, a symbiotic relationship we know little about.
JUL 29, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 29, 2018
Revealing why Sepsis Causes Organs to Fail
The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium can cause devastating illnesses - called staph infections - and lead to organ failure.
AUG 02, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 02, 2018
As Earth Warms, Soil 'Breathes' Harder
Temperatures are on the rise, and it seems soil will become another factor in how our climate changes.
AUG 10, 2018
Videos
AUG 10, 2018
Can the Black Death Make a Comeback?
The bacterium that causes plague was never wiped out.
Loading Comments...