Until recently, conventional medicine swore on genetics as nearly the only cause of Parkinson’s disease.
More recent studies link it increasingly to environmental and lifestyle factors.
A study in Cellular and Infection Microbiology has concluded that specific strains of bacteria are behind most Parkinson’s cases.
Remove this bacteria, and Parkinson’s may be history.
The researchers at the University of Helsinki had previously discovered that Desulfovibrio bacteria were more common and abundant in patients with Parkinson’s, especially those with more severe symptoms, than in healthy individuals.
In this study, the researchers tried to discover whether the specific strains of Desulfovibrio found in Parkinson’s patients led to the development of the disease.
The easiest way to do this kind of study would be to feed healthy people large amounts of Desulfovibrio bacteria from the intestines of Parkinson’s patients.
However, no research ethics committee would approve a study to deliberately give people something suspected to be harmful.
The scientists therefore performed their study on a type of roundworm called Caenorhabditis elegans, which other studies have shown to have many biological processes similar to those in humans.
They examined fecal samples from ten Parkinson’s patients and their healthy spouses to look for Desulfovibrio bacteria. They then fed isolated Desulfovibrio strains to some roundworms to see which roundworms would develop Parkinson’s.
What did they find?
1. The worms fed Desulfovibrio bacteria from Parkinson’s patients had significantly more and larger clumps of alpha-synuclein than worms fed bacteria from healthy individuals or worms fed E. coli strains.
2. The worms fed Desulfovibrio strains from Parkinson’s patients had a higher mortality rate than those fed E. coli bacteria.
The findings suggest that Desulfovibrio bacteria may have a causal role in Parkinson’s because of their ability to induce clumping of a protein called alpha-synuclein.
Unfortunately, there is no direct way to remove Desulfovibrio bacteria strains from our intestines. We can take steps, however, to balance our gut bacteria to prevent the overgrowth of harmful species such as the Desulfovibrio bacteria.