People who suffer from Parkinson’s disease (PD) have a different set of microbiota in their intestines than those without the disease, according to a new study conducted by the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Central Hospital.
The researchers hope that these new findings on gut bacteria will lead to the development of a diagnostic test for PD; they could also pave the road for the development of better treatment strategies, and possibly even prevention.
In the U.S., approximately one million people suffer from PD, which results in the gradual loss of cells responsible for the production of dopamine, a neurochemical transmitter essential for movement coordination.
“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,” says DMSc Filip Scheperjans, neurologist at the Neurology Clinic of the Helsinki University Hospital (HUCH).
The researchers are still trying to figure out why there is a lack of Prevotellaceae bacteria in Parkinson’s and what this actually means. Do these bacteria carry a certain property which protects their host from the disease? Or does it simply indicate that intestinal dysfunction is part of the pathology? “It’s an interesting question which we are trying to answer,” says Sheperjans.
Another very important discovery was that the amount of bacteria from the Enterobacteriaceae family in the intestine was associated with balance and walking problems in Parkinson’s patients. In fact, the more Enterobacteriaceae they had, the more severe the symptoms.
“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,” explains Sheperjans.
“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 most common symptoms of PD are movement-related, such as muscle stiffness, tremors, and change of gait. Non-motor symptoms include depression, poor cognition, anxiety, olfactory dysfunction, and sleep disturbances. Non-motor symptoms can appear before the onset of motor symptoms.
The study is published in Movement Disorders, the Clinical Journal of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.
Source: University of Helsinki