Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Medicinal Microbes
28 November 2014

Medicinal Microbes

The key to improving mental wellbeing may lie in simple probiotic therapies – healthy gut, healthy mind. Recent studies indicate that certain gut bacteria can affect behavioural conditions in mice, alleviating depression and autism-like symptoms. For instance, mice with low levels of the gut microbe Bacteroides fragilis (pictured) showed greater levels of stress, antisocial tendencies and had gastrointestinal symptoms associated with autism. Feeding these mice B. fragilis treated the symptoms. Gut microbe variety was also shown to have an effect on mental health, with higher anxiety and stress levels seen in mice with fewer bacterial types. These symptoms were significantly improved when a more varied microbe community – from mice of the same genetic strain – was transplanted. While it is not yet clear whether these results will translate to humans, studies of this type are encouraging more researchers to consider a microbial approach to mental health.

Written by Helen Thomas

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