© Kigerl et al., 2016
Disrupting the gut microbiome with antibiotics before spinal cord injury (bottom) increases the number of inflammatory cells (brown) in the damaged region of the spine.
Researchers from The Ohio State University have discovered that spinal cord injury alters the type of bacteria living in the gut and that these changes can exacerbate the extent of neurological damage
and impair recovery of function. The study, "Gut dysbiosis impairs recovery after spinal cord injury," by Kristina A. Kigerl et al., which will be published online October 17 ahead of issue in The Journal of Experimental Medicine
, suggests that counteracting these changes with probiotics could aid patients' recovery from spinal cord injuries.
The trillions of bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract are collectively known as the gut microbiome. Disruption of this microbial community, or dysbiosis, occurs when nonpathogenic gut bacteria are depleted or overwhelmed by pathogenic inflammatory bacteria. Autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis, type I diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis) have been linked to dysbiosis, and it has been implicated in the onset or progression of neurological disorders, including autism, pain, depression, anxiety, and stroke.
Traumatic spinal cord injuries have secondary effects or comorbidities, including loss of bowel control, that are likely to cause dysbiosis. The authors reasoned that if any changes in the gut microbiome occur, they might, in turn, affect recovery after spinal cord injury.