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Gut microbiota ‘networks’ may play a role in autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes risk

By Nathan Gray+

14-Mar-2014
Last updated the 14-Mar-2014 at 13:43 GMT

Autoimmune conditions - including type 1 diabetes - may be linked to 'substantial' alterations in the interaction of our gut bacteria, say researchers.
Autoimmune conditions - including type 1 diabetes - may be linked to 'substantial' alterations in the interaction of our gut bacteria, say researchers.

The way in which our gut bacteria interact with each other may have vital implications for the risk of developing type 1 diabetes, according to new research.

As part of the BABYDIET study, researchers from the German Research Center for Environmental Health compared the composition and interaction of the gut microbiota in children who went on to develop diabetes-specific autoantibodies in their blood with data from children who were autoantibody negative.

Led by Dr Peter Achenbach and Professor Anette-Gabriele Ziegler noted that the gut microbiome has been suggested to play a role in the development of many autoimmune disorders, including type 1 diabetes.

“Evidence of anti-islet cell autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes appears in the first years of life, however little is known regarding establishment of the gut microbiome in early infancy,” explained the team, writing in the journal Diabetes.

“We sought to determine whether differences were present in early composition of the gut microbiome in children who developed anti-islet cell autoimmunity.”

The German team revealed that while the diversity and number of bacteria present in the gut were similar in both children who developed anti-islet cell autoimmunity and those who did not, the way that the gut bacteria interacted in the microbiome networks varied significantly in the two groups - even in the first years of life, months or years before one group developed the typical diabetes autoantibodies.

"A range of external factors such as diet, hygiene or even the birth delivery mode can influence both the composition of gut bacteria and the way in which the bacteria interact," explained Ziegler.

"If we are able to identify those parameters that tend to indicate more negative microbiome characteristics, we can develop new approaches to preventing autoimmune processes – for example, in type 1 diabetes."

Study details

Ziegler and her team investigated the microbiome of 298 stool samples prospectively taken up to age 3 years from 22 case children who developed anti-islet cell autoantibodies, and 22 matched control children who remained islet autoantibody negative in follow-up.

While it was found that the microbiome changed markedly during the first year of life, and was further affected by breast-feeding, food introduction, and birth delivery mode – no differences between anti-islet cell autoantibody positive and negative children were found in terms of bacterial diversity, microbial composition, or single genus abundances, said the team.

“However, substantial alterations in microbial interaction networks were observed at age 0.5 and 2 years in the children who developed anti-islet cell autoantibodies,” they said.

“The findings underscore a role of the microbiome in the pathogenesis of anti-islet cell autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes,” concluded the team.

Source: Diabetes
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.2337/db13-1676
“Compromised gut microbiota networks in children with anti-islet cell autoimmunity”
Authors: David Endesfelder, Wolfgang zu Castell, et al

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