Examining the Risk Factors Associated with Multiple Sclerosis

MS and the Gut Microbiome

Recent research has begun to focus on the role of the gut microbiome (GM) in numerous disorders, including MS. The GM consists of primarily bacterial species that colonize the small and large intestines and significantly impact the development and maintenance of the immune system.17 Animal studies have demonstrated that modulation of the GM either exacerbates or ameliorates symptoms of demyelinating diseases. Environment factors such as poor diet, vitamin D insufficiency, and smoking – all of which are risk factors in MS – can adversely affect the composition of the GM.17 In turn higher serum vitamin D levels increase the presence of gut ruminococcaceae, which have an anti-inflammatory effect.18

The MS Microbiome Consortium (MSMC), a multidisciplinary collaboration, is analyzing stool and blood samples of MS patients, tracking variables such as demographics, body mass index (BMI), medical history, MS clinical course and phenotype, therapy, and diet. Initial results show significant genus-level differences in the microbiomes of patients treated with glatiramer acetate, compared to untreated controls. Moreover, female patients with MS showed increased members of the Enterobacteriaceae family, compared to gender-matched controls.19