Could probiotics restore microbiome imbalance linked to autoimmune disorder?

By David Anderson

- Last updated on GMT

Could probiotics restore microbiome imbalance linked to autoimmune disorder?

Related tags Bacteria Gut flora Immune system

Probiotics might help restore gut bacterial imbalance in patients with systemic sclerosis, says a new study looking at gastrointestinal bacterial compositions in two geographically-distinct populations suffering from the autoimmune disorder.

Systemic sclerosis is an autoimmune disease which impacts the body’s connective tissue. It is an uncommon condition that results in hard, thickened areas of skin and sometimes problems with internal organs and blood vessels.

The study ran across the US and Norway and found that Norwegians and Americans with systemic sclerosis had higher levels of bacteria which can cause inflammation and lower levels of bacteria which are said to protect against inflammation compared to those not suffering from systemic sclerosis.

Speaking to NutraIngredients, Dr Elizabeth Volkmann, researcher at UCLA and one of the study authors, said: “This was the first study to examine lower gastrointestinal tract microbial composition in two independent and geographically-distinct systemic sclerosis cohorts.

“The results of the study suggest that patients with systemic sclerosis have a unique lower gastrointestinal microbial consortium characterised by increased pathobiont organisms and decreased beneficial commensal organisms.”

Study details

The researchers studied 17 adults with systemic sclerosis from Oslo University Hospital, 17 with systemic sclerosis from UCLA, and 17 healthy adults.

Stool specimens were tested to determine the type and amount of bacteria which was present.

The study found that those with systemic sclerosis had significantly lower levels of gut bacteria which is thought to protect against inflammation, such as Bacteroides.

They were also found to have higher amounts of bacteria which promote inflammation, such as Fusobacterium​, in comparison to those without systemic sclerosis.

Probiotics to help those with systemic sclerosis

The study suggests that probiotics may aid restoring gut bacterial balance in those suffering from systemic sclerosis.

“If specific organisms are consistently found to improve symptoms in patients with systemic sclerosis, probiotics comprised of these specific organisms may play a role in enhancing the quality of life of patients who suffer from this condition,”​ Volkmann told us. 

The researchers now plan further testing in bigger patient groups.

“Our group plans to continue to investigate the microbiome in larger populations of patients with systemic sclerosis,”​ added Volkmann.

“We aim to discover differences in microbial composition among subgroups of patients with systemic sclerosis (e.g., early versus late disease; patients with and without lung disease) and examine the relationship between microbial composition and gastrointestinal motility.”

Source: BMJ Open Gastroenterology
Published online, Open Access, doi: 10.1136/bmjgast-2017-000134
"Systemic sclerosis is associated with specific alterations in gastrointestinal microbiota in two independent cohorts"
Authors: Elizabeth Volkmann, Anna-Maria Hoffmann-Vold and Yu-Ling Chang

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