Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS).
MS damages the communication between nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord; these signals shoot along axons which are cushioned by myelin, the protective coating. In MS, myelin is attacked by the body’s own immune system, triggering an inflammatory response.
Next, it is thought that the inflammation leads to leakage in the blood-brain barrier.
This devastating disease may be induced in genetically susceptible people by environmental factors which activate the immune response which damages myelin.
Nearly 2.3 million people worldwide live with MS, an increase of 10% in just 5 years. It affects twice as many women as men and is found most commonly in North America and Europe but exists in every country.
Because inflammation has been linked to the microbiota, researchers at Lund University in Sweden wondered how probiotics may figure in MS.
Mice with an animal equivalent of MS were tapped for the study in which five strains of probiotics were given in different combinations: two strains of Lactobacillus paracasei, two strains of Lactobacillus plantarum and one of Lactobacillus delbrueckii.
- None of the strains alone were helpful, but a mixture of the three lactobacilli strains suppressed the progression and reversed the clinical and histological (tissue) signs of disease in mice.
In 2014 research, Mehrnaz Nouri, also at Lund University, also asked whether probiotics would impact MS. An animal model of MS was used. This time, gut microbiota were examined.
- Increased intestinal permeability
- Increased inflammation in the intestinal mucosa
- Activation of acquired and well as innate immunity
- Increased cytokines and neutrophils.
- Increased number of mucus-producing goblet cells
Nouri also looked at probiotic impact: it was found that probiotics indeed stimulated the immune system.
Future work should be done to see if therapeutic use of probiotics at an early stage of dysbiosis may lead to a model of treatment.