AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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Intestinal Bacteria Alter Gut and Brain Function: McMaster Study

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Finding may lead to a new microbiota-directed therapies for gastrointestinal upset and brain disorders

Research from McMaster University has found that bacteria in the gut impacts both intestinal and behavioural symptoms in patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a finding which could lead to new microbiota-directed treatments. The new study was led by researchers from the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute at McMaster, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Waterloo. IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the world. It affects the large intestine and patients suffer from abdominal pain and altered bowel habits like diarrhea and constipation, which are often accompanied by chronic anxiety or depression. Current treatments aimed at improving symptoms have limited effectiveness because the underlying causes are unknown. The goal of the study was to explore whether fecal microbiota from human IBS patients with diarrhea has the ability to influence gut and brain function in recipient mice. Using fecal transplants, researchers transferred microbiota from IBS patients with or without anxiety into germ-free mice. The mice went on to develop changes both in intestinal function and behavior reminiscent of the donor IBS patients, compared to mice that were transplanted with microbiota from healthy individuals.

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