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CONy 2022 | Establishing the link between the Parkinson’s Disease and gut microbiota

The gut microbiome is emerging as an important modulator of various diseases and hence plays an important role in maintaining health. Valentina Leta, MD, PhD, King’s College London, London, UK, gives an overview of the association between the gut microbiota and Parkinson’s Disease. The microbiome of patients with Parkinson’s Disease tend to display pro-inflammatory markers and facilitate the absorption of toxins, leading to an accumulation of alpha-synuclein. Dr Leta additionally highlights efforts to alter the gut microbiome to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. This interview was conducted during the 2022 World Congress on Controversies in Neurology (CONy) meeting.

Transcript (edited for clarity)

You might be aware of the relevance of the gut microbiota in human health and diseases. I mean, over the last years, we have seen an explosion of publications on the topic. And to be honest, if you think about it, we have so many microbes, protozoa, fungi, viruses, bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract, and they constantly interact with our human body. So it’s not difficult to imagine that this what we call gut microbiota, this pool of microorganisms, can play a role in human health and disease...

You might be aware of the relevance of the gut microbiota in human health and diseases. I mean, over the last years, we have seen an explosion of publications on the topic. And to be honest, if you think about it, we have so many microbes, protozoa, fungi, viruses, bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract, and they constantly interact with our human body. So it’s not difficult to imagine that this what we call gut microbiota, this pool of microorganisms, can play a role in human health and disease. And we know that there is a dialogue between the gut microbiota and the human body.
This is of particular relevance for Parkinson’s disease, as we do know that the gastrointestinal tract may be affected early, at the very beginning of the condition. And we do know that people with Parkinson’s, they have an altered gut microbiota composition compared to people without Parkinson’s disease.

Now, results of these studies are extremely heterogeneous, but essentially the results seem to go into a similar direction… the gut microbiota composition in people with Parkinson’s is a pro-inflammatory gut microbiota composition. So there is more inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. And there is some evidence suggesting that this inflammation can potentially facilitate absorption of toxins and is associated with this so-called condition called leaky gut which has been described in Parkinson’s disease. And also can potentially facilitate the accumulation of alpha-synuclein which is the pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.

So of course, this is very speculative. But, in this scenario, you can imagine that use of gut microbiota modulating interventions, such as probiotics, such as fecal microbiota transplantation can play a role in Parkinson’s disease. Number one, to improve constipation, for instance, as we have previously mentioned. But also, eventually to modulate the gut microbiota composition to reduce inflammation, which is a key pathophysiological mechanisms in the disorder. And eventually to modulate this symptomatology of Parkinson’s.

We are at the very beginning of this research field, so we need to do more studies and understand more. There are some studies showing that alteration of the gut, certain types of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, the level of abundance of certain bacteria is associated with some symptoms of Parkinson’s, motor and non-motor.

So, I think that there is a huge potential. Of course, we need to better understand what the meaning of this alteration of the gut microbiota and how we can modulate them and to eventually have a beneficial effect in terms of symptomatology, potentially in neuroprotection. I mean, this is something that needs to be better investigated.

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