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Gut bacteria drive autoimmune disease
March 18, 2018, 12:30 pm

Bacteria found in the small intestines of mice and humans can travel to other organs and trigger an autoimmune response, which can be suppressed with an antibiotic or vaccine, say researchers following a new study at Yale University in the US. 

The research results could promise new approaches in treating chronic autoimmune conditions characterized by attacks on healthy tissue by the body’s own immune system, such as those in systemic lupus and autoimmune liver disease.

To shed light on the link between gut bacteria and autoimmune response, researchers at Yale focused on the impact of Enterococcus gallinarum — a bacterium that spontaneously ‘translocates’ outside of the gut to lymph nodes, the liver, and spleen — on genetically susceptible mice. They found that in tissues outside the gut, E. gallinarum initiated the production of auto-antibodies and inflammation, both hallmarks of the autoimmune response. They confirmed the same mechanism of inflammation in cultured liver cells of healthy people, and the presence of this bacterium in livers of patients with autoimmune disease.

Through further experiments, the research team found that they could suppress autoimmunity in mice with an antibiotic or a vaccine aimed at E. gallinarum. With either approach, the researchers were able to suppress growth of the bacterium in the tissues and blunt its effects on the immune system.

The researchers hoped that treatment with antibiotics and other approaches such as vaccination could offer potential ways to improve the lives of patients with autoimmune disease.


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