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Fascinating new research reveals a common, overlapping environment in the gut microbiome of people living with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia.

The new study by Viktoriya L. Nikolova et al. was published 15 September 2021 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

To the knowledge of the scientists, this is the first review that has looked at evaluating the changes in the gut microbiome connected with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia to see whether these changes could be potential biomarkers of these psychiatric conditions.

Professor Allan Young, the study’s lead researcher from King's College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience said in the press release:

“To our knowledge, this is the first review to assess changes in the gut microbiota in relation to a range of psychiatric disorders and evaluate their potential as biomarkers."


The Study

The review and meta-analysis of 59 studies (n = 1519 patients, n=1429 control participants)

Most of the studies (54.2%) were conducted in East Asia, followed by Westernised populations (40.7%) and Africa (1.7%).


The Results

The results of the study showed a decrease in microbial richness was found in those people with these psychiatric conditions.

But even more specific...

Those people with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia had:

  • Lower levels of Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus
  • = Reduced levels of 2 types of bacteria with an anti-inflammatory effect in the gut.

  • Higher levels of Eggerthella
  • = Higher levels of a type of bacterium with pro-inflammatory effects.

To quote from the study abstract: "Depleted levels of Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus and enriched levels of Eggerthella were consistently shared between major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia, and anxiety, suggesting these disorders are characterized by a reduction of anti-inflammatory butyrate-producing bacteria, while pro-inflammatory genera are enriched."


What does this mean:

People with illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and psychosis are more likely to have gut microbiomes characterized by a lack of anti-inflammatory-producing bacteria and a higher amount of pro-inflammatory bacteria.

Viktoriya Nikolova, the study’s first author from MRes, Centre for Affective Disorders, King's College London, London said in the press release from King's College London:

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."

Professor Allan Young, the study’s lead researcher from King’s IoPPN said,

“Our findings demonstrate that changes in the composition of the microbiota are widespread and, even though it is likely to be a lot more complicated than that, we see some indication of how they may be linked to other known underlying mechanisms of mental illness, such as the regulation of inflammatory processes. It is becoming more and more clear that the health of the gut microbiota is vitally important to the wider mental health of individuals”.

Much more research is needed to find out how this line of research could potentially help treat people with these psychiatric conditions.

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Articles and Scientific Reference

Press Release by Kings College London: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/common-factors-within-t...

Article in MedScape: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/959154?spon=1...

Article in Techexplorist: https://www.techexplorist.com/depression-bipolar-d...

Scientific reference: Nikolova VL, Smith MRB, Hall LJ, Cleare AJ, Stone JM, Young AH. Perturbations in Gut Microbiota Composition in Psychiatric Disorders : A Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online September 15, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.2573 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/ar...

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