Study finds over grown gut bacteria and lupus erythematosus are linked


The microbiome is the bacterial count of the human gut that is responsible for making a person healthy. These tiny bacteria help in food digestion, supply vitamins, nutrients, and boost immunity.

When the intestinal bacteria grow more than normal, it may cause some health problems.

Those autoimmune diseases, bowel problems, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and even rheumatoid arthritis have this imbalanced microflora as a risk factor.

This new study suggests that systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is also linked with the overgrown certain gut bacteria. As you know, lupus is a fatal inflammatory disease that is more common in women. It is an autoimmune disease and just like the rest, the immune system attacks the actual body tissues the considering it as alien.

The research findings are published in the journal named Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases and is available to view online.

How bacterial overgrowth is linked to lupus?

This study was based on 61 women that are diagnosed with lupus. The analysis of their gut showed that they had a high amount of a gut bacterium called Ruminococcus gnavus. These results were comparable to 17 healthy women and clearly showed the difference.

This bacterium is also a part of healthy women’s gut but in low levels only. The study seems to suggest that lupus patients have microbiome differences with normal microbiota. The reason why it changes is associated with lupus.

Normally it is not easy to detect lupus as there are no as such symptoms. But gradually, in between the symptoms show up. The levels of  R. gnavus levels are high when an individual is suffering from lupus. The blood testing of these individuals shows a rise in antibodies that bind to R. gnavus during the onset of symptoms. The amount of these antibodies indicates the severity level of the disease.

The results don’t somewhat show that overgrowth of R. gnavus causes or triggers lupus or not. Maybe the disease symptoms makes the bacterium to grow at a rapid rate. But one thing is sure that the typical gut bacteria are altered when a person suffers from lupus. There is a lot more work needed on understanding how these two are connected.

Is there a treatment of lupus?

This work highlights specific bacteria that may contribute to lupus. In another study from Cell Host & Microbe, it is clear that a certain gut bacterium may make the disease symptoms worse. This experiment was completed on lupus-prone mice.

Lactobacillus reuteri is the name of this bacterium. It is not the same bacterium that showed up in the latest study but it shows that more than one bacteria play role in lupus. It is not clear if all of them have the same impact on lupus or not.

Is altering gut microbiome an option?

More detailed studies may be able to point the possible treatments for all autoimmune diseases including lupus. Considering both above-listed studies, one option is to consider altering the gut microbiome.

It may be an approach to normalize and balance the bac bacteria using an antibiotic against them. However, these antibiotics may also kill the good bacteria which will disturb the gut microflora as a whole.

Diverse approaches that target only specific bacterium may help to make this happen. Alternative such as increase the count of good bacteria by using probiotics may also help to overlap the bad bacterium.

Certain dietary changes may also add up to that.

Starch-rich foods such as green bananas, whole-grain oats, lentils, and rice boost the good bacterium in the gut. All the studies on this subject have been tested on lab animals. For the future, they need to be performed on the human models for the accuracy of results.



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Areeba Hussain
The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health.


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