University of California medical school researchers are looking for multiple sclerosis patients who want to participate in an international study of the bacteria that live in our gut.
The University of California at San Francisco team decided to study the gut microbiome after recent evidence suggested that it is critical in establishing and maintaining immune balance, according to a press release. The effort will be called the International Multiple Sclerosis Microbiome Study.
In mammals, the gut is the largest immune organ, and each person has millions of bacteria in it.
The immune system is defective in MS, turning against the body by attacking the brain and spinal cord. Knowing that the gut is involved in immune system balance, the researchers will investigate whether the microbiome can directly or indirectly impact how MS develops.
Researchers are seeking people with different types of MS. Those with primary progressive MS, or PPMS, will not need to visit the San Francisco medical center.
Those with other types of MS will have to make one visit to San Francisco, New York, Boston or Pittsburgh. The one-time visit will include cognitive and movement assessments, a neurologic examination, and questionnaires about diet.
At this stage, researchers are collecting blood and stool samples from 2,000 participants with MS and 2,000 without the disease. They will use the samples to classify participants’ bacteria populations, and to better understand which species may protect people from developing MS and which may increase the risk they will obtain MS.
Results of this initial stage will help the team design a clinical trial to evaluate the process by which gut bacteria may alter the course of MS, and how that course could be altered.
Those interesting in participating in the study must be between 18 and 80 years old and have MS but no other autoimmune or gastrointestinal disease.
Family members or partners of MS patients who are also participating in the study may be asked to provide blood and stool samples as well. But they will not have to visit one of the four cities that patients will be asked to go to.