Gut bacteria could guard against Parkinson’s

New research suggests that a bacteria which boosts digestive health can slow – and even reverse – the build-up of a protein associated with Parkinson’s.

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee have identified a probiotic – or so-called good bacteria – which prevents the build-up of a protein which is linked with Parkinson’s.
In people with Parkinson’s, alpha-synuclein protein builds up and forms toxic clumps which are associated with the death of dopamine producing nerve cells. The loss of dopamine is what causes motor symptoms in Parkinson’s. 

Using roundworms, scientists found that a probiotic called Bacillus subtilis could not only protect against the build-up of this protein, but can also clear some of the already formed protein clumps.

These new findings could pave the way for future studies that gauge how supplements such as probiotics impact Parkinson’s. 

Parkinson’s and gut health

The findings of this research project, which was co-funded by Parkinson’s UK, build on previous research linking brain function to gut bacteria. 

Dr Beckie Port, Research Manager at Parkinson’s UK, said: 

"Changes in the microorganisms in the gut are believed to play a role in the initiation of Parkinson’s in some cases and are linked to certain symptoms. That's why there is ongoing research into gut health and probiotics.

"Studies that identify bacteria that are beneficial in Parkinson's have the potential to not only improve symptoms but could even protect people from developing the condition in the first place."

"An opportunity to investigate"

The initial findings are promising, but there is still work to be done to investigate the effectiveness of Bacillus subtilis in treating Parkinson’s symptoms. 

Lead researcher, Dr Maria Doitsidou, from the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said:

"The results provide an opportunity to investigate how changing the bacteria that make up our gut microbiome affects Parkinson’s. The next steps are to confirm these results in mice, followed by fast-tracked clinical trials since the probiotic we tested is already commercially available."

Whilst the next stage of research is completed, anyone who is interested in improving their gut health, should consult a qualified health professional or specialist before making any changes to their diet, medications or supplement intake.

Understanding Parkinson’s and diet

If you have Parkinson’s you should find it helpful to maintain as healthy a diet as you can. You should consult a qualified health professional or specialist before making any changes and how they may help you manage your symptoms.