A research team at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health have found connections between the gut microbiome and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Alzheimer’s disease. The study follows from a research in 2016 that suggested the role of gut bacteria in protein accumulation characteristic of diseases like Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and Huntington’s disease.
The team compared the gut microbiome of 25 human subjects with Alzheimer’s disease to 25 cognitively healthy human beings. DNA sequencing was used to take a ‘snapshot’ of the gut bacterial composition.
“Broad taxonomical changes in the gut bacterial composition and changes in their abundance were found in the subjects with dementia. Some were more and some less abundant in people with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Nicholas Vogt, first author of the study.
They further compared the gut microbiomes of individuals with PTSD to that of people who had experienced significant trauma but did not develop PTSD.
“We identified a combination of three bacteria (Actinobacteria, Lentisphaerae and Verrucomicrobia) that were different in people with PTSD,” said the lead researcher Stefanie Malan-Muller.
People with PTSD were found to have significantly lower levels of these bacteria as compared to the control group. This led researchers to conclude that low levels of these three bacteria could be causing more inflammation in the brain and contributing to the symptoms of PTSD.
Though it is difficult to evaluate whether these microbiome differences actually contribute to the disease or are simply a consequence of the disease, scientists are confident that the research will contribute to developing better treatments for PTSD and Alzheimer’s in future.