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Gut Microbiome and ME/CFS – Research Study Conclusion

cornellRecent work from the Hanson group at Cornell University addressing the potential contribution of gut microbiome to the pathophysiology of ME/CFS was published recently in the journal Microbiome. In the study researchers collaborated with Dr. Susan Levine, an ME/CFS doctor in New York City (and member of the Solve M.E. Research Advisory Council), who recruited 48 people diagnosed with ME/CFS and 39 healthy controls to provide stool and blood samples. The team correctly diagnosed myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) in 83 percent of patients through stool samples and blood work.

The study found that the diversity of bacteria was greatly reduced and there were fewer bacterial species known to be anti-inflammatory in ME/CFS patients compared with healthy people, an observation also seen in people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Researchers sequenced regions of microbial DNA from the stool samples to identify different types of bacteria.

The researchers also discovered specific markers in ME/CFS patients of inflammation in the blood coming from gut bacteria that could be triggering an immune response, possibly worsening symptoms. In the future, the research team plans to look for evidence of viruses and fungi in the gut to determine how these microbes may contribute to the illness.

In a statement describing the findings, Dr. Maureen Hanson, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell and the paper’s senior author, said, “Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in chronic fatigue syndrome patients isn’t normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease. Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin.”

“Whether the altered microbiome profile is a cause or consequence of the disease remains unknown,” said Dr. Nahle of SMCI, “but regardless, this important study has many potential implications. In addition to providing yet more proof that ME/CFS is a physiological disease with serious and measurable changes in neuroimmune and gastrointestinal parameters and functions, it potentially offers a rapid and reliable test for a sizable population of ME/CFS patients when these results are reproducible. Furthermore, this could usher in the use of probiotics and diet modification techniques based on a rational design (and an in-depth understanding of the ensuing microbiome profile associated in ME/CFS) as well as open doors to restoring gut flora to healthy states through therapeutic intervention—although the validity of this approach remains to be determined.”

Importantly, such work stimulates all of us to investigate the mechanisms behind this anomalous bacterial presence in the blood (e.g., translocation mechanism, leaky gut) that could contribute to the disease.

Notably, studies have previously implicated bacteria such as chlamydia pneumonia in the pathophysiology of ME/CFS. Collectively, this will generate more interest in research from fields like gastrointestinal and digestive fields where treatments, tools, and technologies are advanced


SOURCE: Ludovic Giloteaux, Julia K. Goodrich, William A. Walters, Susan M. Levine, Ruth E. Ley, Maureen R. Hanson. Reduced diversity and altered composition of the gut microbiome in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome, 2016; 4 (1). DOI: 10.1186/s40168-016-0171-4

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