Altering gut bacteria could help people with lupus

The specific type of bacteria in a person’s gut may improve or worsen lupus symptoms, according to new research from Virginia Tech. In mouse models,…
Altering gut bacteria could help people with lupus

Altering gut bacteria might mitigate lupus, study suggests. (Shutterstock)

The specific type of bacteria in a person’s gut may improve or worsen lupus symptoms, according to new research from Virginia Tech. In mouse models, higher levels of Lactobacillus bacteria were associated with improved lupus symptoms, while Lachnospiraceae, a type of Clostridia, correlated with worsening symptoms.

What’s more, researchers discovered Clostridia levels were highest at the beginning and more advanced stages of lupus, the times when symptoms can be the worst. The gut bacteria discrepancy was also only present in female mice, a finding which again linked the bacteria a lupus since lupus is a disease primarily affecting women.

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“The use of probiotics, prebiotics, and antibiotics has the potential to alter microbiota dysbiosis, which in turn could improve lupus symptoms,” co-principal investigator Husen Zhang told MNT. “We were inspired in part to perform this research by a study on type 1 diabetes, which found that disease is dependent on gut microbiota. Like type 1 diabetes, lupus is an autoimmune disease that is even more prevalent [than type 1 diabetes] in women.”

He added that, while the research suggests the use of Lactobacillus probiotic treatment may benefit individuals with lupus, the findings also make a case for the use of fecal transplants in lupus patients. Fecal transplants are currently used–with great success– in individuals who have Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), a certain overgrowth of gut bacteria that results in a serious infection of the gut often requiring hospitalization. Individuals with this condition lack the proper balance of gut bacteria and are given fecal transplants from healthy donors to resupply the “good” bacteria needed in the body.

“Clostridium difficile is a huge problem for the elderly,” Robert Orenstein, D.O., of Mayo Clinic in Arizona said in a statement. “There is a large population of older patients with an ongoing cycle of relapse for which there are few conventional options. Patients with CDI are missing certain gut flora, usually as a result of antibiotic use,” Dr. Orenstein explained. “I suspect some kind of signaling takes place between healthy bacteria and the mucosa of the gut, and without that signaling, C. difficile can take over. Restoring the missing flora seems to be the key.”

SEE ALSO: Changes in intestinal bacteria linked to type 2 diabetes

With more research, it could be that lupus sufferers could also benefit from a resupply of important gut bacteria in addition to taking the appropriate pro- and prebiotics.

Lactobacillus bacteria, the beneficial bacteria associated with a decrease of lupus symptoms, can be found during the fermentation process of dairy products like yogurt and cheese as well as fruits and vegetables. Yogurt tends to be the product of choice for people who wish to add Lactobacillus to their diets, but commercial supplements are now available as an alternative.