Following on from new evidence on the role of the gut in Parkinson's disease, Bowel & Cancer Research reports findings from BBC Health on Israel's Weizmann Institute's work in Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

The team in Israel were working on a specific form of MND known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). They observed that in mice with ALS symptoms became much more severe when antibiotics had destroyed their microbiomes. Following a process of elimination, the team painstakingly identified 12 species of bacteria that were either over abundant or lacking in the diseased mice.

Working through these bacteria with the mice they noted that some would make the manifestation of the disease worse. One species, Akkermansia muciniphila, improved the disease state.

In no way are we implying that we've stopped, cured or reversed the disease

cautioned Professor Elinav, the team's leader.

Gut bacteria, nicotinamide and MND

The team's finding honed into a chemical, nicotinamide, which is released by Akkermansia muciniphila. The chemical was found to relieve the symptoms in the mice.

It is thought that nicotinamide has a positive effect on oxidative stress and may therefore maintain the health of the neurone for longer. The hypothesis is that small molecules are able to enter the bloodstream and navigate to other areas of the body.

Professor Elinav believes that it is exciting to consider the prospect that the unique signature of our gut bacteria has the potential to impact upon processes that are not necessarily near to where the bacteria reside.

A small study has been carried out on human patients with MND to compare their gut bacteria and levels of nicotinamides with healthy volunteers, and differences were notable.

Professor Elinav urges caution

we cannot overinterpret these results

His current hope is that further work will identify drug targets that can be used in future to slow the pace of the disease in MND patients and thereby buy them more precious time.