Parkinson's disease affected by the human gut microbiome

New research can now add to the age-old adage: You are what you eat. But in this case, you are also what helps you eat, i.e. the bacteria in your gut/stomach.   


Recent mounting evidence shows that our gut health and composition impacts our neurological health. In a recent article,  Parkinson's Disease, a neurodegenerative condition that gradually affects muscle movement, was found to have a connection with the human microbiome.  


The human microbiome is everyone’s unique composition of gut microorganisms like bacteria. The findings from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) show that medications that treat Parkinson’s Disease have significant effects on the composition of bacteria making up the gut microbiome. Researchers from the study also point out that some of the first indicators of Parkinson's Disease onset are gastrointestinal symptoms, such as inflammation or constipation.   


Key findings from the study of nearly 200 Parkinson’s patients are:  an imbalance in the gut microbiome of Parkinson’s patients, certain bacterial species are present in larger numbers than found in healthy disease-free patients, certain bacterial species were reduced, and medications to treat Parkinson’s disease appear to change the compositions of the microbiome in diverse ways.   


Another unique discovery was in correlating the microbiome's function in removing xenobiotics, that is, " … chemicals not naturally found in the body often arising from environmental pollutants…" to its composition. The study found in Parkinson's patients the composition of xenobiotic removing bacteria was different than those of healthy individuals. It has been known that exposure to pesticides and herbicides is known to increase the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. So, again we find the composition of bacteria to play a role in the development of the disease.


When considering the gut microbiome through a genetic lens, that is, seeing that the " … human gut hosts tens of trillions of microorganisms … ," according to Dr. Haydeh Payami, professor in the Department of Neurology, in the UAB School of Medicine, then " … the collective genomes of the microorganisms in the gut is more than 100 times larger than the numbers of genes in the human genome … ." There is a growing field known as pharmacogenomics that strives to tailor drug treatment based on an individual's genetic makeup.   


With these new research findings in the human gut microbiome, indicate that the genetic makeup of the microbiome may also need to be a part of the picture for tailored prescriptive treatment. 

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