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Parkinson's Gut Bacteria and Probiotics Update

As the research continues to accelerate connecting the gut microbiome and Parkinson's there is much excitement around probiotics as a potential adjunct therapeutic for Parkinson's.. In this post I will discuss a few of the recent research papers on Parkinson's and bacteria and archaea of potential interest and I'll cover a November 2022 publication from researchers in Iran, specifically on Probiotics and Parkinson's.

First let's talk about the story that many of you have already seen in the news this past month. That's the story about Desulfovibrio bacteria as a potential cause of Parkinson's. The connection to Desulfovibrio was actually first reported in in 2021 from a group in Helskini where much of the Gut connection to Parkinson's is being researched. This same group advanced this finding by studying Desulfovibrio in an animal model and finding increased alpha-synuclein aggregation in the presence of this bacterium. This was the research that was recently reported around the world as a "cause' of Parkinson's. While this is exciting news, its probably a bit too soon to say that's the cause of all Parkinson's. I say this partly because it is not an organism we found as a marker in the Parkinson's research we did on our BioCollective samples or in conjunction with the Cal Tech Study we published last year, Integrated Multi-cohort Analysis of Parkinson's disease Gut meta genome. And there are other studies that have different findings that both of these.

In the past several years I have also developed an interested in Archaea and the potential connection to Parkinson's. What are Archaea? Archaea (/ɑːrˈkiːə/(listen)ar-KEE-ə; singular archaeon/ɑːrˈkiːən/ar-KEE-ən) is a domain of single-celled organisms. These microorganisms lack cell nuclei and are therefore prokaryotes. They are also known as "life's Extremists"

as they are typically found in extreme environments like the hot sulfur pools of Yellowstone. So this sulfur connection is also interesting in light of the findings from the group in Poland. Here is a paper An archaeal compound as a driver of Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis that I found very interesting as it is taking things a step further and connecting the toxic compound that is being produced to a marker that can be measured in patient's with Parkinson's. The particular Archaea they found in this study is one call Methanobrevibacter smithii which has been found as a marker in numerous Parkinson's microbiome studies. I'll write another post about the research related to this organism to give you an idea of what has been found about this methane producing organism and Parkinson's.

What we can say with confidence, is that the gut ecosystem is dysregulated in Parkinson's and that needs to be addressed to have the best outcome possible. So researchers are increasingly turning to ways to modulate the gut microbiome and one of those ways is with Probiotics.

The study from Iran, Probiotics and the Treatment of Parkinson's disease: An Update. was published in November 2022. Here is the paper abstract:

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by motor and non-motor features. Although some progress has been made in conventional PD treatments, these breakthroughs have yet to show high efficacy in treating this neurodegenerative disease. Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer health benefits on the host when administered in adequate amounts. Probiotics have putative anticancer, antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects. Multiple lines of evidence show that probiotics control and improve several motor and non-motor symptoms in patients and experimental animal models of PD. Probiotic supplementation mediates these pharmacological effects by targeting a variety of cellular and molecular processes, i.e., oxidative stress, inflammatory and anti-inflammatory pathways, as well as apoptosis. Herein, we summarize the effects of probiotics on motor and non-motor symptoms as well as various cellular and molecular pathways in PD.

A number of studies regarding improved bowel regularity with probiotics and fermented foods are referenced in this review:

  • Supplement containing B.bifidum, L.acidophilus, L.fermentum, and L.reuteri has be shown to improve some symptoms (Tamtaji et al.2019,

  • Supplementation with fermented milk can improve constipation, Barichella et al 2016

  • Probiotics improve stool consistency (Bristol stool) and regularity, Cassani et al 2011

  • Multi-strain. Hexbio probiotic after 8 weeks improved transit time and bowel frequency in PD, Ibrahim et al 2020

Secondary outcomes are also discussed in the review:

  • Life quality related to constipation improved

  • Reduced abdominal pain and bloating

Other areas of discussion relate to animal models with various probiotics including,

  • Probiotic SLAB51 improved motor impairment, Castelli et al 2020

  • Improved spacial memory in animal model, Alipour Nosrami et al 2020

  • L.plantarum and S. thermopilus shown to improve motor skills, Visnuk et al 2020

  • C.butyricum improved motor impairments, Sun et al 2021

The review paper also references a review and discussion paper by Doron and Syndman, 2015 reviewing probiotic safety and risks and discussion of potential research areas. Probiotics have a long history of safety but can cause issues in immunocompromised individuals. Always consider this if you are looking at taking probiotics.

The role of oxidative stress is well known in neurological disorders, including PD. Oxidative stress results in a cascade of metabolic issues that can ultimately result in cell death, including death of dopaminergic neurons from reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are primarily produced in the Mitochondria. Reactive nitrogen species, and the production of peroxynitrite have also been noted in PD. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) which is the cell wall of Gram negative bacteria is used in some animal models of Parkinson's. I have wondered why researchers who use LPS animal models to induce PD-like symptoms in an animal model aren't asking "How could LPS producing bacteria be contributing to Parkinson's? And how could we address THAT as a causal factor?" Probiotics can be effective at reducing Gram negative bacteria and thus lowering serum LPS. This is what we recently showed with our probiotic in a study in patients with diabetes, the results of which will be available in The Journal of Biotechnology and BioMedicine, later this month. Metabolic Shifting Probiotic in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Management: Randomized Clinical Trial . Gissel García`, Josanne Soto, Lays Rodríguez, Maricela Nuez, Noraika Domínguez, Emilio F. Buchaca, Duniesky Martínez, Rolando J Gómez, Yohanka Ávila, Martha R. Carlin, Raúl J. Cano

The probiotics review paper includes a section on probiotics and dopamine. A study referenced in the paper reports the rescue of dopomineric neurons in both the striatum and substantial niagara with probiotics. Other research has documented that gut bacteria like Helicobacter pylori "eat" dopamine and having certain bacteria in your GI tract can increase the need for more medication.

The review paper concludes that probiotics may afford neuroprotection, regulating the gut brain-axis and points out the need for identifying the most suitable probiotic as an adjuvant treatment for neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's.

As many of you know this has been my intuition since I started The BioCollective, that gut bacteria are a key factor in Parkinson's and many other diseases and we can change the course of the disease by restoring our gut ecosystem. This research will continue to make progress but in the meantime there are things you can do to make a difference to your gut health, from fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir to probiotics. So keep your eyes on the research and the experts who are focused on this promising area. I am full of hope for the promise of the gut-brain connections that are being made in an area where we can have an impact by the choices that we make in the food we eat and the lifestyle we lead.

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