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Scientists Establish Connection Between Gut Microbiota and Parkinson’s Disease

Finding could lead to new testing and treatment methods

Patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) have different microbiota in their intestines than their healthy counterparts, according to a study conducted in Finland.

“Our most important observation was that patients with Parkinson’s have much less bacteria from the Prevotellaceae family; unlike the control group, practically no one in the patient group had a large quantity of bacteria from this family,” said Filip Scheperjans, DMSc, a neurologist at the Helsinki University Central Hospital.

The researchers have not yet determined what the lack of Prevotellaceae bacteria in the gut of PD patients means. Do these bacteria have a property that protects their host from the disease? Or does this discovery merely indicate that intestinal dysfunction is part of the pathology? “It’s an interesting question which we are trying to answer,” Sheperjans said.

Another intriguing discovery was that the amount of bacteria from the Enterobacteriaceae family found in the intestine was related to the severity of patients’ balance and walking problems. The more Enterobacteriaceae they had, the more severe their symptoms.

Seventy-two patients participated in the study.

“We are currently re-examining these same subjects to determine whether the differences are permanent and whether intestinal bacteria are associated with the progression of the disease and therefore its prognosis,” Sheperjans explained. “In addition, we will have to see if these changes in the bacterial ecosystem are apparent before the onset of motor symptoms. We will, of course, also try to establish the basis of this connection between intestinal microbiota and Parkinson’s disease –– what kind of mechanism binds them.”

The researchers also hope that their discoveries could ultimately be used to develop a testing method that would improve the diagnosis of PD and perhaps to discover a way to treat or even prevent the disorder by focusing on gut microbiota.

Source: EurekAlert; December 11, 2014.

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