Written by Gina Wren
Look, us mere mortals never really get to find out what is going on in the world of science. Well, not unless it’s (sometimes) sensationalised in the press. So, we wanted to bring you a snapshot of the latest science to whet your appetite to find out more if it’s something that piques your interest. Or simply to keep you all in the “gut world” loop. Remember most of the studies are VERY new science, so keep your critical thinking cap on!
Our report is brought to you by our student research squad who have their ears to the lab floor ground to keep us all informed.
The gut-brain axis is the two-way communication between the gut and the brain. New research has found that people with depression lack two specific types of bacteria in their gut. This finding will help in furthering our understanding of the gut-brain axis. And it could also provide novel diagnostic techniques and therapeutic strategies for mental health conditions.
The Flemish Gut Flora Project analysed the gut microbiome (the trillions of microorganisms that live in the gut) of 1,054 adults consisting of both men and women. Information on general-practitioner diagnosis of depression and antidepressant treatment was collected. The participants were also required to complete questionnaires around quality of life and self-reported depressive symptoms.
Two specific types of bacteria, Coprococcus and Dialister, were found to be consistently reduced in individuals with depression. Whether these individuals were currently undertaking an antidepressant treatment had no effect on the levels of these bacteria. Interestingly, many of the other bacterial differences found between depressed and non-depressed individuals could be attributed to antidepressant treatment. There were also two types of bacteria found to be associated with better mental health. These were namely Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus bacteria.
This study provides evidence to suggest that what happens in your gut may be affecting your brain! The results presented here have the potential for exciting future applications for mental health conditions. Including the ability to diagnose depression by assessing the gut or as a novel therapeutic strategy for depression by manipulating the gut bacteria! This is already being tested out with the use of probiotics and different foods (pretty cool, am I right?)
Although the research shows that there are two types of bacteria lacking in depressed individuals, this does not mean that these bacteria cause depression. Instead, this could be a side effect of being depressed. Or could be due to different dietary patterns in depressed individuals. Further research needs to be done to confirm these results and before any steps can be taken towards applications in diagnosis and therapy
Valles-Colomer M, Falony G, Darzi Y, et al. The neuroactive potential of the human gut microbiota in quality of life and depression. Nature Microbiology, 2019. doi: 10.1038/s41564-018-0337-x
Gina Wren is currently a postgraduate student at Imperial College London focussing on the microbiome in health & disease. She graduated from Durham University in 2016 after studying Natural Sciences. Following this, Gina worked at Innovate UK for two years. Helping to drive innovation and business growth in the health & life sciences industry.