Probiotics may play role in relieving cerebral palsy symptoms, say scientists

By Nicola Gordon-Seymour

- Last updated on GMT

Image © Tetiana Lazunova / Getty Images
Image © Tetiana Lazunova / Getty Images

Related tags cerebal palsy Probiotics Depression

Chinese scientists believe probiotics can help alleviate behavioural issues linked to cerebral palsy (CP) by reducing inflammation along the gut-brain axis.

They propose that treatment with Saccharomyces boulardii ​reduces inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) - which is increasingly recognised as an important contributor to CNS injury - and alleviate secondary symptoms of CP, such as depression.

“Depression is associated with both a chronic low-grade inflammatory response, activation of cell-mediated immunity, and many inflammatory disorders, and neuro-inflammatory disorders might trigger clinical depression-like behaviour,” ​the team writes.

“The gut-brain axis is emerging as a particular area of interest and a potential new therapeutic target for the effective treatment of CNS disorders,” ​they say.

CP and depression 

CP sufferers are known to  exhibit depressive symptoms and studies suggest inflammation within the gut-brain axis may exacerbate the problem.

A healthy CNS is important to regulate the bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain, which can help relieve the symptoms associated with CP and depression.

The scientists maintain that the treatment for CP often ignores emotional problems and suggest widespread use of S. boulardii​ to alleviate emotional disorders in children could have “great social significance”.

However, they note that there are few studies on treatment for CP-derived depression. Therefore, the study aim was to establish whether S. boulardii​ could improve the behaviour and emotions of CP rats with hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) through the gut-brain axis pathway.

Improved behaviour

Seventeen-day-old Sprague–Dawley (SD) rats were exposed to S. boulardii ​for nine days. Behaviour and emotions were analysed with MRI scans and neuromotor assessments, including tail suspension (TST), sucrose preference (SPT) and hind limb suspension tests.

Results showed that treatment improved both behavioural and emotional systems: TST and SPT scores indicated lower levels of depression, while improved muscle strength and tension were also observed.

S. boulardii​ increased the diversity of gut microbiota, reduced inflammation, and decreased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity (often associated with clinical depression) in CP patients. This suggests probiotics could potentially reduce depression, the authors say.

Our team observed that ​S. boulardii could reduce the inflammatory level of rats with hyperbilirubinemia, improve abnormal behaviour, and we propose the prospect of probiotics in the treatment of hyperbilirubinemia.”

They note that the probiotic may also provide nutrients for the host, improve the activity of beneficial intestinal bacteria, inhibit the growth of pathogens, and improve the immune function of the intestinal mucosa.

Source: BMC Neuroscience

Published: doi.org/10.1186/s12868-021-00679-4

‘Saccharomyces boulardii improves the behaviour and emotions of spastic cerebral palsy rats through the gut-brain axis pathway’

Deshuang Tao, Tangwu Zhong, Wei Pang, and Xiaojie li

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