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Probiotics Found to Increase Punch of Treatments That Decrease Inflammation in MS

January 15, 2018

A recent study found that probiotics increased the punch of treatments that decrease the inflammation that is associated with diseases like multiple sclerosis. Probiotic supplements can be used to add helpful bacteria to the gut and could potentially improve patients’ outcomes.

The study was conducted by a team from Harvard University-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is called, “Investigation of probiotics in multiple sclerosis”. The study looked at whether probiotics can aid in reducing the inflammation that is linked to MS, not if probiotics can improve the disease itself.

Since probiotics contain live bacteria, scientists believe this can improve gut health. Recent research has shown that gut microbes can actually affect the way the immune system works. This suggests the microbes could improve MS since it is an autoimmune disease.

A probiotic called VSL3 is what researchers used for their work, which contains eight strains of bacteria. These include four Lactobacillus species, three Bifidobacterium and one Streptococcus, the compound is sold in the U.S. under the name Visbiome and in Europe it is called Vivomixx.

Nine relapsing-remitting MS patients were recruited for the study, seven of whom were being treated with glatiramer acetate (sold as Copaxone, Glatopa as generic) and two who were not being treated. Thirteen healthy controls took part in the study as well.

The average age of MS patients was 50, in comparison to the healthy controls which were an average of 35. None of the patients experienced a relapse during the study, MS patients were also heavier, some even considered obese.

All participants experienced two months of probiotics treatment, healthy controls having results of fewer microbial species in their gut, and patients experiencing no change in their gut. Although, both patients and controls did have more beneficial Lactobacillus, Streptococcus and Bifidobacterium species in their gut.

It was also found that the gut bacteria mix had changed in both of these groups at two months and five months post-treatment, although the change was still insignificant in patients. After taking the probiotics, the patients’ gut bacteria mix went back to what it was at the beginning of the study.

Another finding was that gut bacteria alterations did not lead to a change in the number of inflammation-fighting immune T-cells in participants’ blood. When patients stopped the treatment, their T-cell numbers dropped. The same pattern was discovered with other types of immune cells, such as with monocytes and dendtritic.

Researchers said the findings suggest probiotics may affect disease processes, although further studies are needed to confirm this. They also called for research needed to determine if “anti-inflammatory peripheral immune response is associated with improved disease outcome in MS patients.”