Gut microbiome signatures associated with common mental health disorders

September 20, 2021
Gut microbiome signatures associated with common mental health disorders

A recent meta-analysis by scientists at King’s College London (King’s) has found a compelling link between certain mental health disorders and gut microbiome abnormalities: in particular, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety, all present with altered gut microbiome including higher amounts of pro-inflammatory bacteria. The study underscores the importance of understanding gut bacteria signatures in diagnosing mental health disorders.

Gut bacteria are part of a large and dynamic community of microorganisms that live in the human gastrointestinal tract. This can include viruses and fungi, as well as other types of microorganisms. Previous studies have pointed to the important role that the gut microbiota plays in the development of mental illness.

Focusing on this subject, a team at King’s looked at 59 case-control studies of gut bacteria in adults with a variety of different psychiatric disorders, such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anorexia nervosa.

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At the end of the study, sufferers of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, were noted to have increased levels of a bacterium called Eggerthella, which has previously been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation. These four psychiatric conditions also were associated with decreased levels of Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus, two bacterial genera known to confer anti-inflammatory properties.

“While we haven’t managed to establish biomarkers for specific illnesses, we have found that there is a significant overlap between gut health and the prevalence of mental illness, specifically in relation to the predominance of certain proinflammatory bacteria compared to anti-inflammatory bacteria,” said Viktoriya Nikolova, a PhD student from King’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience.

The scientists indicate these findings make clear the importance of paying attention to gut health in the treatment of mental health disorders.

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