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Potential link between gut microbiome and genetic risk of autoimmunity

Researchers have discovered a potential link between the human gut microbiome and genetic risk for autoimmunity.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disorder that develops in children and adolescents and is influenced by genetic and environmental factors.

Researchers from Linkoping University in Sweden and the University of Florida in the US assessed the gut flora in children with low, neutral, or high genetic risk of autoimmunity. The results were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

The researchers analyzed a subset of data from the ABIS study (All Babies in Southeast Sweden) at Linkoping University. The ABIS study involved 17,055 babies from Southeast Sweden, who were born between 1997 and 1999. These children were followed up from birth, then at 1, 2-3, and 5-6 years of age. Investigators collected biological samples, including stool samples, and questionnaires from parents. Some of the children also contain data about human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, which play a crucial role in the immune system.

The researchers found that the gut microbiome in children with different genetic risks varied markedly. Gut microflora of children with high genetic risk for autoimmunity was different from children with low risk. Interestingly, researchers noted that some specific organisms were present in all children with a high genetic risk, but they were not found at all in children with low or no risk.  Gut microflora in high-risk children was associated with Saccharimonadaceae and Erysipelotrichaceae bacteria, whereas neutral risk was associated with two genera of the family Peptostreptococcaceae, specifically Intestinibacter and Romboutsia. The investigators suggest that certain species may be protective against the development of autoimmune disease. In addition, they hoped that these organisms may be used in the future for the prevention of autoimmune disease development. However, there is a possibility that these species may not survive in children with a high genetic risk, which requires further study.

Further study is needed for a better understanding of the combination of gut flora and genetic risk for autoimmunity. Researchers hope that the results may be not only important for understanding the development of type 1 diabetes, but also other autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Written by Anna Otvodenko


Russell, J., Roesch, L., Ördberg, M., Ilonen, J., Atkinson, M., Schatz, D., Triplett, E. and Ludvigsson, J. (2019). Genetic risk for autoimmunity is associated with distinct changes in the human gut microbiome. Nature Communications, 10(1).

EurekAlert!. (2019). Genetic risk is associated with differences in gut microbiome. [online] Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/lu-gri081919.php [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019].

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay



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